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11 Oct 2018

US urges Bangladesh to revise its new Digital Security Act

US on Bangladesh's new Digital Security Act

The US has urged Bangladesh to revise its controversial new law that puts restrictions on the media and bring it into conformity with the country's international commitments on human rights and political freedom.

Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid on Monday signed into law the new Digital Security Act that combines the colonial-era Official Secrets Act with tough new provisions such as arrests without a warrant.

In context

US on Bangladesh's new Digital Security Act
Law entails jail term of 14yrs, has drawn widespread criticism

Draconian provisions

Law entails jail term of 14yrs, has drawn widespread criticism

Some of the draconian provisions of Digital Security Act include a jail sentence of up to 14 years for spreading "propaganda" about Bangladesh's 1971 war for independence from Pakistan, as well as a three-year sentence for publishing information that is "aggressive or frightening".

The law has drawn widespread criticism both at home and abroad, including from human rights organizations, United Nations and European Union.

'New law could be used to suppress, criminalize free speech'

"While we recognize the need to protect digital security, we share strong concerns of international community that Bangladesh's Digital Security Act could be used to suppress and criminalize free speech, to the detriment of Bangladesh's democracy, development, and prosperity," the US State Department Spokesperson said.

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Freedom of expression, a key component of democratic government: US

The US has also urged Bangladesh to revise the law so as to ensure that it provides for checks and balances against arbitrary arrest and other undue restrictions imposed on the right to the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression.

"The United States values freedom of expression, including online expression, as a key component of democratic governance," the spokesperson said.

Law undermines judicial procedural guarantees: Joint statement of EU members

In a recent joint statement, the Heads of Mission of EU member states, EU delegation, and Heads of Mission of Norway and Switzerland, said the law unduly restrict the freedom of expression and the freedom of the media and undermine judicial procedural guarantees.

'Ensure Digital Security Act is in accordance with Universal Declaration'


'Ensure Digital Security Act is in accordance with Universal Declaration'

The joint statement called upon the Bangladeshi Government to continue consultations on the law and pursue the commitments taken during the Universal Periodic Review last May.

This is to ensure that the Digital Security Act will be in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the Constitution of Bangladesh, it said.

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