"DSA imposes draconian punishments for a wide range of vaguely defined acts"
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression Irene Khan has said that the Digital Security Act of Bangladesh imposes draconian punishments for a wide range of vaguely defined acts.
In a report submitted to the 50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, which began on June 13 and ends on July 8, she said fake news laws generally do not pass the three requirements of legality, legitimate aims, and necessity outlined in article 19 (3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
"An example of such flawed legislation is the Digital Security Act of Bangladesh, which imposes draconian punishments for a wide range of vaguely defined acts encompassing national security, criminal cyber libel and disinformation, and bestows significant and highly intrusive investigative, search and seizure powers on the authorities," she said in the report.
The use of DSA has led to the arbitrary detention, torture and custodial death of journalists, and chilled journalism online and offline, said the special rapporteur reiterating her call for the law to be repealed.
Other examples of countries that have recently adopted or enforced legislation that is not compliant with international standards include Cuba, France, Italy, Malaysia, Qatar and Singapore, among others.
Describing the global situation on media freedom, Khan said digital technology has enabled ground-breaking investigative reporting, new models of cross-border collaboration, cooperative fact-checking with audiences and access to treasure troves of data and diverse sources with a mouse click.
However, it has also given rise to unprecedented challenges and changes for the news industry, aggravating existing threats and creating new ones, she said.
Longstanding problems of violent attacks on and legal harassment of journalists with impunity, censorship of content and manipulation of regulatory authorities have been entrenched, aggravated and augmented by digital technology, Khan added.
Notable new manifestations include gender-based online violence, targeted surveillance of journalists, legislation restricting information online, "media capture" by State or corporate interests and viral disinformation campaigns that undermine public trust in independent journalism, the report said.
She recommended that at the national level, states should develop and implement national action plans, based on human rights obligations and tailored to online as well as offline issues, to advance the freedom, independence and pluralism of the media.
Irene Khan also said states should consult with civil society and journalists' organisations in developing, monitoring and assessing their national action plans transparently and inclusively.