Digital Security Act threatens press freedom, needs reformation: Editors’ Council
The Editors' Council today called upon the authorities concerned to reform the Digital Security Act in order to ensure press freedom in the country.
The council came up with the call in a statement issued on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, undersigned by the council's President Mahfuz Anam and General Secretary Dewan Hanif Mahmud.
With this year's theme "Journalism Under Digital Siege", the World Press Freedom Day is being observed today (May 3) across the world as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom and is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics.
Stressing that journalists are being under digital surveillance across the globe and threatened in upholding their duty in dissemination of information, the Editors' Council cited Unesco Director-General Audrey Azoulay's call to protect journalism and journalists by generating awareness about the benefits and risks of working in the digital age and prepare a roadmap to this end.
According to the Unesco publication titled, "Threats that silence: Trends in the safety of journalism", journalism is threatened and affected by digital surveillance and hacking across the globe, the statement read.
"Digital surveillance can reveal the information collected by journalists and expose their sources, thereby lowering the security of the sources. Such surveillance can also expose journalists' personal information that will in turn lower their own security," the statement also said, adding that such digital measures – surveillance, online harassment, hacking – are being utilized by both states and non-state entities to disrupt journalists in their professional pursuits and also compromising their personal security.
The council observed that security forces in different nations are adopting various digital surveillance measures that are detrimental to the expansion of press freedom. Stressing that use of digital technology in journalism has become important amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the council observed that the need to ensure security to journalists is now more than ever in the digital era.
The Editors' Council also noted that from May 2 to May 5 this year, Unesco and the Republic of Uruguay will host the annual World Press Freedom Day Global Conference in a hybrid format in Punta Del Este, Uruguay. Under the theme "Journalism under Digital Siege", the digital era's impact on freedom of expression, the safety of journalists, access to information and privacy will be discussed.
"The Editors' Council believes that journalism in Bangladesh is facing an array of challenges in the digital era. The most controversial of all those challenges is the Digital Security Act, which has created much obstacles for mass media to work with freedom," the statement read, adding that many journalists have been sued and arrested under this act and so were activists from different platforms, artists and writers.
"From the very beginning, the Editors' Council and journalists have been concerned and made objections regarding the Digital Security Act. Recently, the law minister also said that there have been numerous misuse of the law and hinted at reforms to it. The minister's comments proved that the Editors' Council's concerns were genuinely on point," the statement also read.
"And yet, journalists in Bangladesh have continued to work despite numerous obstacles and challenges including the Digital Security Act. In the World Press Freedom Index 2021 prepared by Reporters Without Borders in France, Bangladesh ranked 152nd among 180 nations. Amid this scenario, the Editors' Council is equivocal with the call for upholding security and freedom to journalists across the world, made on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day," the Editors' Council statement said.
"At the same time, the council remains concerned and worried regarding the challenges and obstacles faced by journalists in Bangladesh while working on digital platforms," it added.