Dhaka, Oct 15 (IANS) Newspaper editors in Bangladesh gathered in the capital on Monday to demand an immediate amendment to the newly-enacted Digital Security Act, which they say hampers the freedom of the press and free speech.
The editors formed a human chain in front of the National Press Club under the banner of Editors’ Council and said they won’t accept any “farce” in the name of discussion of their demands to amend the law, bdnews24.com reported.
They demanded the scrapping of those sections of the law which stood in the way of freedom of expression, the report said.
“We hope that the government will accept our demands and the amendments will take place during the next parliamentary session, which is the last session of the Parliament,” said Daily Star Editor and the General Secretary of Editors Council, Mahfuz Anam.
The last session of the Parliament during the term of the present Bangladesh government will begin on October 21 before the general election in December.
Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid had ratified the anti-propaganda law on October 8 after it was passed by the Parliament on September 19, Efe news reported.
The law has been criticized by journalists, activists and the EU as a “tool to crack down on freedom of expression”.
The Editors’ Council had called off a protest on September 30 after they were assured by ministers that their concerns will be addressed during a Cabinet meeting.
But the meeting did not discuss the matter.
“We want a discussion that will lead to a solution,” the Daily Star Editor said at the human chain programme.
“We do not want discussion only for the sake of discussion. There should be no farce in the name of discussion,” he added.
The law — proposed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina — penalizes “negative propaganda” against former President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Hasina’s father, or against Bangladesh’s Liberation War.
It also states that publication of “false and distorted” information against the state or “spreading rumours” will be punishable by up to three years in jail.
Amid widespread criticism, Hasina had defended the law at a press conference in Dhaka earlier this month, saying that journalists, who did not propagate fake news had nothing to fear.