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UN urges BD to revise Digital Security Act

October 10, 2018 00:00:00

UN Human Rights body has called on Bangladesh to urgently revise the Digital Security Act, to ensure that it is in line with international human rights law, reports UNB.

The rights body wants to see that the law provides for checks and balances against arbitrary arrest, detention, and other undue restrictions of the rights of individuals to the legitimate exercise of their freedom of expression and opinion.

"We stand ready to assist the Government," spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva.

The Digital Security Act was signed into law in Bangladesh on Monday, despite wide-ranging concerns that its content and scope could seriously impede the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and opinion, as well as the rights to liberty of the person and to due process of law.

"The Act could have a severe impact on the work of journalists, bloggers, commentators and historians but also penalizes the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression by any other individual, including on social media," said the spokesperson.

The law contains vague provisions that would impose long prison sentences of up to seven years or a fine for online speech that disturbs the law and order situation, affects religious feelings or ruins communal harmony, Shamdasani said.

"The Act gives the police wide powers of search and arrest without warrant. Many of the offences in the Act are unbailable. This is of particular concern given concerns about due process in Bangladesh," said Shamdasani.

"However, despite pledges to revisit the problematic provisions of the Act, it was signed into law yesterday," he added.

Meanwhile, the government has formed a nine-member monitoring cell to detect rumours in social media including Facebook.

The cell, comprising of officials of the Press Information Department (PID), will instantly monitor real-time rumours being circulated through online platforms and inform about those rumors to media.

State Minister for Post and Telecommunication Tarana Halim said this on Tuesday after holding an inter-ministerial meeting at the Secretariat. Representatives of different ministries and organisations and law enforcing agencies and intelligence agencies were present.

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