Dhaka, Mon, May 2018

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End crackdown on dissent, HRW urges BD

10 May 2018,Thursday, 19:05



Mentioning that the proposed Digital Security Bill to replace the existing law is “even broader than the one it seeks to replace”, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the government of Bangladesh to draft a new law for upholding the principles of free speech and internet freedom.

The proposed act, article 32 of which is being widely criticised, “violates the country’s international obligation to protect freedom of speech”, said the HRW report titled “No Place for Criticism: Bangladesh Crackdown on Social Media Commentary”.

Published on Wednesday, the New York-based rights group mentioned that Scores of people have been arrested over the past five years in Bangladesh under section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act (ICT Act) for criticizing the government, political leaders, and others on Facebook, as well as in blogs, online newspapers, or other social media, Bangladesh will undergo scrutiny of its human rights record at the United Nations Human Rights Council on May 14 this year, as part of a process known as the Universal Periodic Review.

“The government should take this opportunity to commit to ending its crackdown on dissent and criticism, including that made by the political opposition, and instead, pledge to lead a robust public campaign on the right to free expression,” Human Rights Watch said.

“The government of Bangladesh acknowledges that the current section 57 of the ICT Act is draconian, and needs to go,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “But the new law being proposed is hardly an improvement, creating a series of new offences that will undoubtedly be used for years to come against government critics in the country’s highly politicized criminal justice system.”

“The United Nations Human Rights Committee, the independent expert body that monitors compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) – to which Bangladesh is a party – has said laws that penalize opinions about historical facts are incompatible with a country’s obligations to respect freedom of opinion and expression,” mentioned in the report.

The HRW urged the government should work with domestic and international experts to draft a new law that fully upholds the principles of free speech and internet freedom.

 

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