VOICE is a rights-based, activist organization working mainly on the issues of food sovereignty, aid effectiveness, economic justice, and the right to information and communication, both in Bangladesh and on a global scale. By building a broader constituency of alternative voices to the ‘mainstream development discourse’ through research and public education, VOICE is taking a stand against unjust and undemocratic practices.
The aspirations of free peoples are seldom harmful to liberty, because they result either from oppression or from fear that there is going to be oppression.”
– Niccolo Machiavelli, Discourses I.4
cyberON September 20, 2013 the treasury bench placed a bill in parliament purporting to further amend the current law of the land on information and communication technology, namely ‘Information and Communication Technology Act, 2006.’ Not withstanding a good deal of protestations, this in all likelihood is going to be made law. Interestingly, however, this comes close on the heels of an ordinance amending the Information and Communication Technology Act, 2006 Act promulgated by the President of the Republic on August 20, 2013. The unease is legible in your face.
Journalists and rights activists yesterday urged parliamentarians not to approve the recent amendment proposal to the ICT law, which they said could easily be misused.
Law enforcers will be able to arrest any person without any warrant for publishing any material in electronic form that causes deterioration of law and order, harm the image of the state or person or hurt religious belief, according to the ICT (Amendment) Act 2013.
The offender of the non-bailable crime will be punished for a maximum of 14 years in jail and seven years at the minimum, as per the law.
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[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, Somewherein.net 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, Somewherein.net Blog and, Farjana Akhter, Programme Coordinator, Voice spoke at the press briefing while Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, Executive Director of Voice moderated the session.
A press briefing on ‘ICT Act (Amendment) 2013: Challenges for Privacy and Human Rights’ to be held on 22 September 2013
This is to inform you that VOICE, in collaboration with Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangbadik Forum, Bangladesh ICT Journalist Forum, Campaign on Citizen Right to Information, Equity and Justice Working Group, Somewherein.net, Online Knowledge Society, Sushashoner Jonno Procharavijan (SUPRO), School of Communications and Cultural Metaphysics are pleased to invite you in a press briefing on ‘ICT Act (Amendment) 2013: Challenges for Privacy and Human Rights’ to be held on Sunday, 22 September 2013 from 10:30 am. to 12:00 pm. at the Conference Room, National Press Club, Dhaka.
The objective of the press briefing is to address the recent Information and Communication Technology (Amendment) Act 2013, which poses serious threats to the enjoyment of the right to privacy, freedom expression and human rights.
Eminent journalist Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul, President of ISP Association of Bangladesh Aktaruzzaman Manju, Journalist and editor of Shaptahik Golam Mortoza among others will be in the panel. Representatives of CSOs, NGOs, human rights defenders among others will be attended at the briefing.
Statement: Proposed Amendments to the Information and Communication Technology Act Violates Privacy and Human Rights
ALREADY a repressive law, the existing ICT Act-2006 is being further blackened by the government through approving the proposed draft of its amendment styled ICT (Amendment) Ordinance-2013. Worse still, the proposed draft Act has made non-cognisable offences in the existing law cognisable, abolished the provision of bail and increased the extent of punishment to 14 years in prison.
On the flipside, it also provides the police with unrestricted power to arrest any person suspected of breaking the law without issuing warrant. It will constrict freedom of thought and thereby democracy.
In line with our consistent position against vesting arbitrary power in the law-enforcers’ hand, we express our strong reservation against the proposed amendment to the ICT Act.
The cabinet yesterday approved the draft of the ICT (Amendment) Ordinance-2013 proposing to empower law enforcers to arrest any person without warrant and increase the highest punishment to 14 years. In the original Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act-2006, enacted by the BNP-Jamaat government, the maximum punishment was 10 years’ jail term and a fine of Tk 1 crore.
And police had to seek permission from the authorities concerned to file a case and arrest any person involved in crimes covered under the law.
The amendments, okayed in a regular cabinet meeting, envisage a minimum jail term of seven years.
In the original act, termed by many a repressive law, offences were bailable. Now they have been made non-bailable, meaning the bail is at the judge’s discretion.
“Some crimes were non-cognisable under the existing act,” Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain told reporters after the meeting at the Bangladesh Secretariat.
“But the new act will make those cognisable. [That means] the police will be able to arrest a suspect without issuing of warrant [by the court]. But they will have to produce the arrested person before the court within 24 hours.”
He said the cabinet had asked the ICT ministry to bring further changes in the law, if necessary, after reviewing the proposed amendments.
A public dialogue on ‘Challenges of Privacy and Security in Bangladesh: Perspective from Human Rights Defenders’ was held on Sunday, 30 June 2013 at the CIRDAP Auditorium, Dhaka. The dialogue was organized by VOICE in association with Law Life Culture, Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangbadik Forum; Bangladesh ICT Journalist Forum, Campaign on Citizen Right to Information; Equity and Justice Working Group; Online Knowledge Society, Sushashoner Jonno Procharavijan (SUPRO); School of Communications and Cultural Metaphysics. Eminent leaders and journalists including Khushi Kabir, Women Leader, and Coordinator of Nijera Kori; Mahmdur Rahman Manna, Politician, Saiful Haque, general secretary of The Revolutionary Workers Party, Dr. Shahriar Rahman of Asia Pacific University spoke in the panel among others.
The panelists discussed the issues of privacy, national security and along with the existing institutional practices on legal and policy regulations to rise with the human rights framework. They also discussed the recent criminalization of right to freedom of expression and privacy and raised on how to build a broader constituency creating capacity and strengthening networking through raising voices to uphold privacy rights being critical on communication surveillance in Bangladesh.
Environment rights groups said on Wednesday that the climate change adaptation planning has barely been integrated into the national budget 2013-2014. A national climte commission should be formed for appropriate integration of climate adaptation, which is necessary for the country's survival. They were speaking at a press conference on "Budget 2013-14 does not comply with climate adaptation", jointly organised by Bangladesh Poribesh Andolan (BAPA), the Climate Change Development Forum (CCDF), Campaign for Sustainable Rural Livelihood (CSRL), Coastal Development Partnership (CDF), Equity and Justice Working Group Bangladesh (EquityBD), Network on Climate Change Bangladesh (NCCB), VOICE, PRAN and HumanityWatch.
Mostafa Kamal Akanda and Syed Aminul Haque of EquityBD, Farzana Akhter of VOICE, Mizanur Rahman Bijoy of the NCCB and Atiqur Rahman Tipu of the CDP spoke on the occasion. Rezaul Karim Chowdhury of EquityBD moderated the press conference.
Syed Aminul Haque, reading out from a keynote paper, described agriculture and healthcare as most important areas with regard to climate adaptation.
He pointed out that the government has reduced the budget allocation for the two sectors this year, compared to the previous year.
Civil right groups EquityBD and VOICE have criticized United Nation High Level Panel (UN HLP) report on post 2015 agenda for development terming it "as lofty goal and empty bowl."
At a press conference held at National Press Club, leaders of these organizations said the report is far from meeting the needs of the transforming economies. The release of the UN HLP report on June 30 in New York was chaired by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Indonesian President Dr. Susilo Bambang and Liberian President Alen Johnson Sirlef.
Rezaul Karim Chowdhury and Ahmed Swapan Mahmud spoke on the occasion.
They said the report has over emphasized the role of free market and private sector financing to attain the goals and in doing so it failed to strike a balance between private sector and public sector financing.
They said free market is responsible for producing poverty and global inequality and this in turn is only widening the gap between rich and poor. Private finance always looks for profit and it can't be used to establish equity and justice.