The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Bangladesh’s legislature to scrap proposed cyber-security legislation that would impose severe penalties for disseminating online material deemed to be “anti-state or a threat to national security or public order.”
“Proposed cyber-crime legislation, if passed, would have a stifling effect on media freedom in Bangladesh,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. Crispin said the draft law’s language “dangerously conflates” cyber-crime with fair critical comment.
“We strongly urge parliament to reject the bill and ensure that any future version includes clearly defined press freedom and freedom of expression guarantees.”
The Digital Security Act 2016 was approved on August 22 by Bangladesh Cabinet and is pending in parliament, the CPJ said in a message from Bangkok quoting news reports.
Maximum penalties would include life in prison for spreading false information about the country’s 1971 war of liberation from Pakistan or about Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman; seven years for disturbing public order; and two years for defamation or harming religious sensitivities, the CPJ said.
Bangladesh ranks 12th on CPJ’s Impunity Index, a global measure of countries where journalists are slain and the killers go free, agencies report.