Cyber Security Act: Stakeholders have to give opinions by August 22
Law Minister Anisul Huq has said stakeholders can give their views on the draft of Cyber Security Act (CSA) within August 22, and well-thought-out opinions will be considered.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, he said there are provisions in the Digital Security Act for big penalties which has been reduced in the CSA. Also, non-bailable offences under several sections of the DSA have been made bailable in the proposed law.
The minister said the sections of the DSA that stipulate double or extended sentences for repeat offenders have been cancelled in the proposed law.
"When the issues of Digital Security Act came up, it was said that offences under many sections of the act were non-bailable. Now we have made most of the offences under the sections of the Cyber Security Act bailable. You [stakeholders] can give your opinion on some sections [17, 19, 21, 30, 33] under which offences are still non-bailable," said Anisul.
The press conference on the draft of Cyber Security Act-2023 was organised at ICT Tower in the capital's Agargaon. Zunaid Ahmed Palak, state minister for ICT, also spoke.
The draft of the law was uploaded on the law ministry website on Wednesday. The stakeholders can submit their opinion within 14 days from that day.
The government has decided to revoke the controversial DSA amid widespread criticism from different quarters. It has drafted the CSA making several changes to the DSA. The cabinet approved the draft law on August 7.
Centre for Governance Studies' DSA Tracker logged a total of 381 journalists being accused until mid-July under the law since it came into force in 2018.
The law minister said, "All I can say is that all the sections that have now been made bailable will remain bailable [in the law]. Some other clauses [non-bailable] can be added to the law."
Offences under sections 17, 19, 33 have been made non-bailable and these are all related to cybercrime, Anisul said, adding that the government's main objective here is to stop cybercrime.
"I think the misuse of Digital Security Act will stop after the enforcement of the proposed law."
The minister said if the draft law is compared with the DSA, one must notice the changes in the draft law and it is not an "old wine in a new bottle".
He said the problems (sections of DSA) which worried the journalist community will be gone and so harassment of journalists will also stop.
The mental pressure and fear which was created in independent reporting for journalists through the use of DSA will be removed by the CSA, he added.
About the changes in the CSA, Anisul said there is a jail term for defamation in section 29 of DSA, which has been replaced with only fine. There is 10-year jail sentence under article 21 of DSA, but now the jail term has been cut to seven years.
"Ninety-five percent of the people, starting from the United Nations high commissioner for human rights to my journalist friends, who spoke to me opined that there should be such a law. The government's main aim is to amend parts of the Digital Security Act so that independence of the media is not disrupted…. We strongly believe we have removed that fear with this act."
International Federation of Journalists in a statement on Wednesday said it should be ensured that any future legislation respects and defends press freedom, instead of criminalising it.
"While the government's intentions to reform the problematic Digital Security Act are welcomed, we remain concerned at the CSA's potential to recreate the repression seen under its predecessor. If Bangladeshi authorities wish to reduce the harm of frivolous and dangerous legal action against the media, then this legislation must centre press freedom concerns," said the platform.