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A draconian measure that will take us backwards

  • Published at 05:05 pm January 31st, 2018
  • Last updated at 06:22 pm January 31st, 2018
A draconian measure that will take us backwards
Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of democracy, and a country which silences and punishes people for telling the truth is no democracy at all. Journalists frequently find themselves under fire for simply doing their job: Reporting on current affairs without bias, exposing irregularities and corruption, and holding the powerful accountable for their actions. But the draft Digital Security Act 2018, if signed into law, will make it much harder for journalists, online activists, and even lawyers to do their jobs without fear of harassment at the hand of law enforcement. What the draft law proposes is nothing short of alarming -- journalists and others recording information in order to expose irregularities in government activity could be charged with espionage, and hit with a jail term of up to 14 years and a fine of up to Tk20 lakh. Not only does the law appear to contradict the principles of press freedom and transparency in state affairs, it raises more questions than it answers. For example, if a journalist records evidence of a public official asking for a bribe, will he or she be charged with espionage? Will a journalist be harassed and persecuted for collecting evidence of wrongdoings in the corridors of power? Bangladesh is, sadly, ranked 146 in Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index, and the introduction of the draft Digital Security Act 2018 only threatens to make it worse. This is bad for all parties -- the government itself benefits from a free press, as it helps fight corruption and crack down on wrongdoing. The Digital Security Act 2018 is a draconian law that will take us backwards: We do not wish to live in a society where freedom is a myth, where powerful officials are not held accountable for their actions, and where journalists are locked up for doing their job.