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.
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.
[Dhaka, Tuesday, 4 June 2013] Civil society right groups network EquityBD and VOICE in a press conference held at the city’s national press club criticized United Nation High Level Panel (UN HLP) report on post 2015 agenda terming it “as lofty goal and empty bowl” and said that the report is in fact a far short in transforming economies. The UN HLP report has just published on 30th June 2013 in New York. The UN HLP was co chaired by UK Prime minister Davide Cameron, Indonesian President Dr. Susilo Bambang and Liberian President Alen Johnson Sirlef. Moderated by Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, chief coordinator of Equitybd, the position paper was read out by Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, executive director of Voice.
Speakers criticized the UN HLP report for over emphasizing on free market and private sector financing for development. They said the report has not been able to strike a balance between private sector and public financing. They urged that free market notion is responsible for reproducing poverty and global inequality and widening the gap between rich and poor. They have also mentioned that generically private finance always look for profit rather than growth with justice and equity.
Beyond 2015, a global civil society campaign on the post-2015 development agenda which brings together more than 700 organizations in over 100 countries welcomes the UN High Level Panel’s ambitious report on the post-2015 agenda.
Reacting to the launch of the report, Neva Frecheville of CAFOD in the UK and co-chair of Beyond 2015 said “Civil society has been clear on the need for a universal framework to replace the MDGs in 2015. The High Level Panel has reiterated this demand, and this will hopefully galvanise action in both developing and developed countries, helping tackle the underlying causes of global poverty, inequality and environmental degradation and thus shifting the current development paradigm. We applaud the Panel for its boldness in pushing developed countries to reform trade, tax and transparency policies, to tackle illicit capital flows, to regulate global financial and commodity markets, and to prompt large multinational corporations to report on the social, environmental, and economic impact of their activities. These actions, more than aid alone, will help bring about the transformation required in this world. For this vision to become reality there needs to be a major change in political will and in global cooperation, and that will be the real challenge.”
A divisional level workshop titled `Towards Ensuring Better Results and Accountability of Foreign Aid: Reaching out to Stakeholders’ has been held in Cox’sbazar, Bangladesh on 9 May 2013 jointly organized by the Economic Relations Division with support from the multi-donor supported Aid Effectiveness Project being implemented. It was co-financed by AusAid, Bangladesh Government, Danida, DFID and UNDP. The workshop was attended by various stakeholders such as key district administration officials, heads of all major government offices in the district, local government representatives such Mayors, Upazilla Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen, academics, civil society representatives and media. The workshop aims at spreading out the aid effectiveness agenda among cross section of stakeholders, thereby creating a national demand for result oriented and transparent development cooperation in Bangladesh.
Training workshop on `Privacy, Human Rights and Communication Surveillance: National Laws, Practices and Safeguards’
A day long training workshop on `Privacy, Human Rights and Communication Surveillance: National Laws, Practices and Safeguards’ has been held on 27 April 2013 at the CBCB (Catholic Bishops Conference of Bangladesh), Dhaka.
The workshop discussed the issues of privacy and communication surveillance along with the existing practices on legal and policy regulations to raise critical awareness and develop perspective with the human rights framework. It discussed 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.
A report on freedom of expression online and right to internet access in Bangladesh which has been published by VOICE in January 2013.
This report analyzes the situation in Bangladesh based on the recommendations of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression. It investigates the country situation on what extent online freedom of expression in Bangladesh confirms the standards of national and international laws and policies.
This report draws the overview of the internet in Bangladesh describing the access and infrastructure, service quality and internet exchange gateways. It also describes the overview of United Nations Special Rapporteur Frank’s La Rue’s report and highlights the assessment of the recommendations while the report assesses the prevailing situation. This report also briefly discuss the political and human rights situation, policy framework of the internet in Bangladesh including the Telecommunication Policy of 1998, Telecommunication Act-2001, and the Information and Communication Technology Act (ICT).