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15th-Oct-2018

Take seriously the promise made to the editors

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The Editors' Council will form a human chain in front of the National Press Club today (Monday) to press for amendments to nine sections of the Digital Security Act. Earlier, the Council postponed the same program following an assurance from three ministers including the information minister Hasanul Haq Inu that the Act would not get final approval unless it realized the Editor's demand. The minister had promised to seek the cabinet's approval for resuming discussion with the Editors. The Editors demanded to bring amendments to the law in the last session of the current parliament starting on October 21. But the promises made to the Editors were dodged.
The arbitrary law states that if a police official believes that an offence under the law has been or is being committed at a certain place, or there is a possibility of committing crimes or destroying evidence, s/he can search the place or any person there. In cases of offences relating to performance of duty by journalists, they must be issued summons to appear before a court [as is the law now], and under no circumstances should media professionals be arrested without warrant. The platform demanded that in instances of offences made by media professionals, it should be routed through the Press Council to establish a prima facie case.
It is widely alleged that, section 66A had been misused in various states to arrest innocent persons for posting critical comments about social and political issues on social networking sites. There was almost a similar provision in the ICT Act -- section 57 -- which was also widely abused to harass journalists.
The government has had success in getting a large number of obedient journalists, and dividing the journalist community under political ideology. In fact, it is the main weakness of the journalist community and for that reason all the subsequent governments took advantage of it. In the recent past when many dissent journalists were harassed, the platform kept mum.
We urge the government to take the promise made to the editor seriously for saving press freedom. No political government can survive by destroying press freedom. The government should have courage to give political leadership and not be subservient to the bureaucracy.