Bangladesh enacts Digital Security Bill, 2018

Bangladesh’s President Abdul Hamid has given his assent controversial Digital Security Bill, 2018, by enacting it as a law. This new law combines previous colonial-era Official Secrets Act with tough new provisions such as arrests without warrant. Bangladesh Government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (Bangladesh Awami League) has defended the digital law as necessary to combat cyber crime

Digital Security Bill 2018

It was passed by Bangladesh’s Parliament to deal with cybercrimes, including hurting religious sentiment, spreading negative propaganda against 1971 Liberation War and Bangabandhu (Sheikh Mujibur Rahman). It also covers illegal activities in e-transactions and spreading defamatory data under its ambit
It provides for minimum of 7 years and a maximum of 14 years’ imprisonment, as well as monetary fines of a minimum of Taka 25 lakh and maximum of Taka 1 crore, or both for illegal access and destruction of any important information related to state affairs.

Opposition to law

The law has faced widespread vocal opposition from rights groups and journalists that it could endanger freedom of speech– especially on social media. These groups are saying that this law will create atmosphere of fear and intimidation, which will make journalism and especially investigative journalism, virtually impossible. Opponents also have criticized digital law as latest authoritarian move by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The law has also drawn opposition internationally including from US ambassador to Bangladesh, Marcia Bernicat who had quoted that this law could be used to suppress and criminalise free speech which inturn could be detrimental to Bangladesh’s democracy, development and prosperity.

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