The US State Department has expressed approval of Bangladesh’s move to revise the Digital Security Act (DSA). In a press briefing released on Monday, Matthew Miller, spokesperson for the US State Department, reiterated concerns about how the DSA had been employed to apprehend, imprison, and stifle dissenting voices.
“The United States warmly embraces the Bangladeshi Government’s longstanding pledge to amend the legislation with the aim of safeguarding the right to freedom of speech”– Matthew Miller, US Spokesperson
Miller stated that the reports regarding the Bangladeshi cabinet’s intention to “repeal” the Digital Security Act were positively received by the US government.
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Miller also emphasized that the United States warmly embraces the Bangladeshi Government’s longstanding pledge to amend the legislation with the aim of safeguarding the right to freedom of speech. He further highlighted that the US encourages the Bangladesh Government to extend an inclusive opportunity to all relevant parties to assess and contribute their perspectives to the proposed revised Cyber Security Act.
He delivered these comments in response to a journalist’s query about whether the US has conducted an evaluation of the reforms to the Digital Security Act in Bangladesh and the US perspective on the direction of these reforms.
Cyber Security Act 2023
Yesterday, Law Minister Anisul Haque informed journalists of this development. Speaking from his office in the Ministry of Law within the Secretariat, he revealed that amendments are being introduced to the Digital Security Act, incorporating numerous sections into the new Cyber Security Act. Notably, the punitive aspect of Article 29, involving imprisonment, is being completely eliminated. The sole penalty henceforth will be a fine, and failure to remit the fine can lead to a prison term of 3 or 6 months.
Digital Security Act 2018
In September 2018, the Ministry of Law, Justice, and Parliamentary Affairs in Bangladesh introduced the Digital Security Act of 2018, marking the country’s adoption of a comprehensive Digital Security Law. This legislative provision was enacted to counteract the dissemination of racism, sectarianism, extremism, and terrorist propaganda, as well as expressions of hatred directed towards religious or ethnic minorities, across social media, print media, and other electronic platforms.
The law encompasses materials that the government deems pornographic or otherwise inappropriate, subjecting offenders to fines or potential prison sentences of varying durations. Notably, the Act granted the authority to law enforcement officers to apprehend individuals without the need for a formal warrant. The foundation for this law draws inspiration from the Information and Communication Technology Act’s Section 57, initially passed in 2006, serving as a template for its development.
The draft legislation was introduced by the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Division during the Cabinet meeting.
“We have opted to transition from the Digital Security Act to the Cyber Security Act. A significant number of clauses from the Digital Security Act will not be retained in the upcoming legislation. Additionally, amendments and rectifications will be incorporated,” stated Law Minister Anisul Huq.