Government not considering amendment to Digital Security Act: law minister

Law Minister Anisul Huq has ruled out the possibility of the government amending the Digital Security Act now.

Published : 5 March 2021, 10:55 AM
Updated : 5 March 2021, 05:47 PM

He says the government is rather trying to stop the abuse of the law.

The minister made the comments amid protests for the repeal of the Act following the death of writer Mushtaq Ahmed in jail after his arrest in a case started under the law.

Huq faced journalists on Friday at his home in Barhmanbaria’s Kosba where he travelled to attend an event.

“We are still not thinking about amending the law. What we are doing is trying to stop its abuse,” he said when asked about the government’s plan on the Digital Security Act.

Earlier, he said he had begun discussing ways to stop the manipulation of the law with the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights before the death of Mushtaq.

They will sit again next Thursday to compare the law with the best digital security practices around the world, the minister said.

“We will take whatever steps are required to stop the misuse and abuse of the law,” he added.

Besides the civil society in Bangladesh, international human rights organisations have also raised objections against the Digital Security Act.

The demand to scrap the controversial Digital Security Act has intensified after Mushtaq Ahmed’s death in prison. File photo.

Parliament passed the Act in September, 2018 by dropping the much-criticised Section 57 of the ICT Act and some other parts. Nevertheless, concerns over the possible misuse of the law remained.

Now, many are pointing to Mushtaq's death in pre-trial detention as ‘proof’ that their fears were justified.

The Rapid Action Battalion arrested Mushtaq at his Lalmatia home on May 6 last year amid the coronavirus crisis.

Afterwards, he was charged with propagating disinformation against the government on social media under the Digital Security Act.

The judge rejected several bail petitions of Mushtaq, while activists demonstrated on several occasions demanding his release.

The death of the 53-year-old at Kashimpur High Security Prison in Gazipur on Feb 25 triggered protests and condemnation. The protesters have renewed the demand for repeal of the law as well.

On Mar 1, BBC Bangla broadcast a report in which the law minister was quoted as saying: “A new measure has been planned to ensure that no one will be arrested or named in a case until the police investigation is completed after a complaint is made under the Act."

Many thought afterwards that the government was considering changing the law. When Huq was asked about the government’s plans regarding the legislation at an event at Akhaura Railway Junction on Friday morning, he replied, “You’ll get to see it in a few days.”

Based on his comment, some media outlets at the time reported that the law is being revised. Hours later, the minister ruled out the amendment of the law.

Huq said the death of Mushtaq in jail was “unfortunate” and “shocking”, but it was also natural and has “no connection” with the Digital Security Act.

He defended the Act saying that nothing new, except the “technical ones”, has been included in it. 

“The provisions in the Digital Security Act are also there in the Penal Code,” he said.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher