The Sampadak Parishad (Editors’ Council) has expressed deep disappointment as no step was taken to amend the Digital Security Act in the last session of the 10th parliament in spite of commitment by three ministers that “scope for further dialogue was not over”.
It also noted with concern that the Act is starting to be used against media persons before the framing of rules that are supposed to govern its use.
“There have also been cases of threats being issued against media houses that cases will be filed under the above Act to prevent them from carrying out their professional tasks,” the Parishad said in a statement issued yesterday.
The Parishad, a platform of editors of the country’s national dailies, expressed the disappointment at its meeting held on Monday at The Daily Star Centre with Reazuddin Ahmed, the founding editor of News Today, in the chair.
The platform said no effort was made to address the grievances of the journalists and media community and no step was taken to amend the act in the last parliament session held on October 21-29.
The Parishad urged all political parties participating in the upcoming election to incorporate in their respective party’s electoral manifestos a pledge to amend the Digital Security Act in the 11th parliament to be formed through the December 30 election.
It also expressed serious concern at the widespread use of defamation cases against editors and other journalists to harass them and prevent them from performing their journalistic functions.
In this regard, the Parishad drew the attention of the honourable magistrates and judges that the law clearly provides that only “aggrieved” persons are entitled to file defamation cases. But those not falling under the legal definition of “aggrieved” persons are filing defamation cases and that are being accepted by the courts.
“We earnestly urge that such abuse of the law be immediately stopped and the legal provision be strictly followed in defamation cases,” the statement reads.
The statement was sent by Reazuddin Ahmed, founding editor of News Today, Matiur Rahman Chowdhury, editor of Manabzamin, Nurul Kabir, editor of New Age, Matiur Rahman, editor of Prothom Alo, Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, Naem Nizam, editor of Bangladesh Pratidin, Alamgir Mohiuddin, editor of Naya Diganta, MA Malek, editor of Dainik Azadi, Md Mozammel Haque, editor of Karatoa, M Shamsur Rahman, editor of The Independent, Saiful Alam, acting editor of Jugantor, Dewan Hanif Mahmud, editor of Bonik Barta, Zafar Sobhan, editor of Dhaka Tribune, Shahiduzzaman Khan, acting editor of The Financial Express, and Mustafiz Shafi, acting editor of Samakal.
The parliament on September 19 passed the much-debated Digital Security Bill ignoring concerns of journalists and rights defenders and keeping a harsh provision that allows police officials to search or arrest anyone without a warrant.
Following the passage of the bill, the Parishad announced that it will form a human chain in front of the Jatiya Press Club on September 29.
But later, the programme was postponed at the request of the information minister, who also promised to bring the law minister and the posts, telecommunications and IT minister to a discussion with the editors on September 30.
The three ministers and one adviser to the prime minister, at the September 30 meeting, committed to take the editors’ concerns to either the cabinet meeting on October 3 or the next one on October 8.
But no discussion was held about the act at the two meetings. Later on October 8, President Abdul Hamid signed the Digital Security Bill into law.
From a human chain on October 15, the Sampadak Parishad demanded proper amendments to nine sections of the Digital Security Act within the last session of the parliament for the sake of independent journalism and freedom of expression.