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ICT Act Amendment 2013 will affect right to privacy and freedom of expression

By farjana - Posted on 22 September 2013

[Dhaka, 22 September 2013] Speakers told that the ICT Act (amendment) 2013 sharply conflicts with Bangladesh Constitution’s Article 39 and 43 which guarantee freedom of expression and right to privacy respectively. Terming it as a ‘black law’, speakers urged the government not to enact as a law. A press conference titled ‘ICT Act (Amendment) 2013: Challenges for Right to Privacy and Freedom of Expression’ was held by VOICE in the city’s national press club today while it was jointly collaborated with Bangladesh Manobadhikar Shangbadik forum, Campaign on Citizen’s Right to Information, Bangladesh ICT Journalist Forum, Blog, Online Knowledge Society, Shushashoner Jonyo Procharabhijan (SUPRO) and School of Communication and Cultural Metaphysics. 

Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul, CEO, Boishaki Television, Khairuzzaman Kamal, Executive Director, Bangladesh Manobadhikar Shangbadik Forum, Zakir Hossain, Executive Director of Nagorik Uddog and Convener of Campaign on Citizen Right to Information, Syeda Gulshan Ferdous Jana, Acting Managing Director, Blog and, Farjana Akhter, Programme Coordinator, Voice spoke at the press briefing while Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, Executive Director of Voice moderated the session.

In a reading statement Farjana Akhter urged government to rethink the Act before any final decision and asked the journalists to create public awareness about the Act that hampers human rights at large. She raised seven demands including that  the ICT Act (Amendment) 2013 should not be passed as law as it would obviously hamper the right to privacy and data protection, freedom of expression and communication. She told that if it is really necessary to collect someone’s personal information by the government authorities or companies they must provide appropriate reason and explanation for which information on personal data would be collected. The demands also include that in a special and emergency situations, personal information could be collected with the permission of the owner of the data. She strongly demanded not to pass the Amendment in the Parliament.

Distinguished journalist Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul told that by enacting such a law that many rights defenders have already termed it ‘black’, all the achievements of the incumbent Government are being challenged. She asked the journalist communities to voice out to protect freedom of expression and human rights. He mentioned that the as per article 57 (1) of the Act would provide blanket immunities to the law enforcement agencies to arrest any person for even a trivial matter interpreting differently as subversive to the State or public interest. And it would be a huge challenge for all of us to establish good governance and democracy in the country, he mentioned.

The information and communication technology has a bigger impact in the society, enabling communities to connect to the information highway and allowing for the construction of a digital Bangladesh. However, the amendment in the law has the possibility to enable the abuse of opinions and voices of the citizens and political groups, endangering citizens’ right to privacy and human rights at large. It also neglects personal data and privacy protections and people's aspirations for the freedom and democratic practices along with accountability and governance he added." 

Ahmed Swapan Mahmud said that the law would affect online users—bloggers and facebook users seriously who practices free speech in the domain. It would create a sense of fear and disparity that would undermine the democratic norms and human rights standards along with cultural silence. The act undoubtedly would harass common people and political activists as our society is sharply divided into chaotic political groups while the authorities in power would get to abuse the Act as the maximum extent, he argued. 

Syeda Gulshan Ferdous Jana said if we really want to respect the democracy, we must respect public opinion. So in order to protect democracy, government must rethink of proposed amendment. Among others, Zakir Hossain, Khairuzzaman Kamal  expressed their concern not to pass the amendment of ICT law.