Freedom of expression in social media | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 21, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 21, 2017

Law letter

Freedom of expression in social media

We often articulate that technology has made the world smaller, but the social media has made the globe even smaller. These days we mostly use the platform of social media to express our thoughts. It has become a podium for performing citizen journalism.

In democratic structure, social media is regarded as a tool for encouraging 'social participatory governance'. Social media user is challenging administrative norms and structure dictating public sector declaration around the world: from government to government and government to public. 

As a democratic country, the right to freedom of speech and expression is recognised in Article 39 and 43 of the Bangladesh Constitution. Despite the constitutional protection, Sections 57, 54, 61 and 76 of the ICT Act, 2006 and Amendment of 2013 thereof have given huge discretionary power to the police, abuse of which is one of the major concerns in present day scenario of Bangladesh even if these very provisions go against the international standards. 

While there is no straight reference of social media in the international instruments nevertheless the following terms of the international and regional conventions has given strong indication of right to freedom of speech and expression 'through any other media of his choice' in Article 19 of UDHR, 'regardless of frontiers' in Article 19 (2) of ICCPR, 'without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers' in Article 10 of ECHR, 'either orally, in writing, in print, in the form of art, or through any other medium of one's choice' in Article 13 of ACHR, establishes freedom of speech and expression through social media. 

Therefore the provisions under the Constitution of Bangladesh, ICT Act and other relevant laws are not synchronised enough to control the Social media in relation to the right to freedom of speech and expression. Furthermore, the crimes mentioned in the ICT Act of Bangladesh are unclear and inconsistent. The said offences are also inconsistent when we balance them with crimes under the Penal Code. Thus, there is a requirement for diverse and balanced regulatory mechanism taking the present situation and global human rights instrument as well as the present features of social media.  

Mazharul Islam

PhD Research Scholar in Law, South Asian University, India

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