New ICT law comes under fire
Lawmakers should not give a nod to the proposed amendment to the ICT law in parliament as it will obstruct the path to free-thinking, analysts said in a discussion yesterday.
The government seems to have moved away from the main objective of the law, which was to bring an end to digital forgeries, they said. “It will now become a draconian law and the government is going to get nothing out of it,” Barrister Tanjib-ul Alam said at the discussion organised by the daily Prothom Alo at its office at Karwan Bazar in Dhaka.
The amendment will make a person liable to punishment — up to 14 years in jail — on the basis of a short message sent through mobile phones, or a comment or even a ‘Like’ put on social networking sites such as Facebook, Alam said.
But the punishment is only seven years of imprisonment for a person who steals thousands of crores of taka like the Hall-Mark Group did last year, he added.
“It’s discrimination and goes against the freedom of expression,” said Alam who was involved in drafting the law in 2006.
The cabinet approved the draft of the ICT (Amendment) Act-2013 on August 19 proposing to empower law enforcers to arrest any person without warrant and increase the highest punishment to 14 years from minimum seven years.
The government has later promulgated the ICT (amendment) ordinance, which is now in parliament awaiting a final go-ahead.
According to the ordinance, if any person deliberately publishes any material in electronic form that causes to deteriorate law and order, prejudice the image of the state or person, or causes to hurt religious belief, the offender will face maximum 14 years and minimum seven years of imprisonment. It also suggested that the crime is non-bailable.
In the original ICT Act 2006, the maximum punishment was 10 years’ jail term and a fine of Tk 1 crore. And police had to seek permission from the authorities concerned to file a case and arrest any person involved in crimes covered under the law.
However, Zunaid Ahmed Palak, a ruling party lawmaker and a member of the parliamentary standing committee on the ICT ministry, said the amended law will safeguard free-thinking in some cases.
“Our objective was to avoid incidents, like the ones in Ramu and Bogra, that harm lives,” he said at the discussion moderated by Abdul Kaium, joint editor of the Prothom Alo. ICT Secretary Nazrul Islam Khan called upon the stakeholders to put forward their recommendations so the government can incorporate those before the amended law is finally passed in parliament.
Mustafa Jabbar, president of Bangladesh Computer Samity, a trade body, said the law is not enough to curb cyber crimes.
“If the flaws of the law are not fixed, general people will suffer the most,” he said.
Barrister Sara Hossain said the government should remove some terms such as ‘country image’ and ‘religious sentiment’ from the proposed amendment. Russell T Ahmed, general secretary of ICT trade body — Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services, said, “We live in a country where misuse of law is rampant and the government has put the weapon of misuse in the hands of police.”
The country is not ready yet to try cyber criminals as no national data centre or other infrastructure has been developed, Ahmed said.
Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, executive director of Voice, a development organisation, said the amendment will impose self-censorship on the internet users.
Sumon Ahmed Sabir, an ICT expert, said cyber crimes will mark a rise now as the country has gone for 3G technology or high-speed wireless internet. “So the government should take preparations to face that,” he said.
Source: The Daily Star, Tuesday, October 01, 2013