Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has voiced concerns over incorporating some controversial provisions of the Digital Security Act in the draft Cyber Security Act and emphasised the need for a more comprehensive evaluation.
TIB believes that if the draft transforms into law, it could potentially lead to a scenario where individuals might face legal harassment merely for expressing their opinions and sharing information through digital media channels.
In a press conference on Wednesday, TIB called for a comprehensive review of the draft Cyber Security Act, considering international discussions, objectives, and content, as well as the opinions of relevant experts and stakeholders.
Dr Iftekharuzzaman, TIB Executive Director, and Professor Sumaiya Khair, advisor, TIB executive management, joined the event on "Digital Security Act and Draft Cyber Security Act: A Comparative Review" at TIB's Dhanmondi office.
Earlier on Monday, the cabinet gave the final approval to the draft Cyber Security Act, which will replace the controversial Digital Security Act, making all offences bailable except for those under four sections.
"If the Cyber Security Act is passed, it could transform into a draconian law similar to the Digital Security Act, leading to a substantial risk of undermining the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution for the people," Iftekharuzzaman said.
He said similar to those outlined in the Digital Security Act, the provisions in the proposed law threaten fundamental human rights, such as the right to freedom of expression, independence, conscience, thought, and freedom of media.
"Moreover, expressing opinions and information through digital platforms could subject individuals to risks, potentially stifling open expression," he further elaborated.
The TIB Executive Director asserted that treating constitutionally upheld freedoms, independence, and media freedom as offences renders the current form of the law unacceptable."
As per sections 8 to 11 of the proposed cyber security act, authorities can request the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to remove data if cyber security is compromised. Section 8 (2) allows law enforcement action if data pertains to the country's economy, security, defence, religious values, public order, or promotes racial hatred.
However, the lack of clear definitions in the Act raises concerns about misinterpretation, relying on law enforcement's potentially risky judgments, according to a TIB press release.
While content removal is necessary, it must align with international human rights standards like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Several sections in the law effectively criminalise freedom of expression and information sharing, warns the release.
The Act imposes fines and imprisonment, encroaching upon constitutional rights. Moreover, the Act empowers police to define and investigate cybercrime, necessitating an enhancement of their technical capabilities, notes TIB officials.