US concerned about Bangladesh’s digital security law

US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas on Tuesday reiterated Washington’s concern over Bangladesh’s digital security law.

“The United States has made its concerns about the DSA clear, both in its annual human rights report and in meetings with government officials,” the ambassador said during a briefing. event at EMK Center in Dhaka commemorating World Press Freedom Day.

He referred to the latest Reporters Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index, which ranks Bangladesh 162nd out of 180 countries, down ten places from the previous year.

The ambassador said one of the reasons why Bangladesh scored so low is the Digital Security Act, which the report calls “one of the most draconian laws for journalists in the world”.

“We are also concerned about the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission’s draft regulations for digital platforms, social media and over-the-top platforms and the draft data protection act,” the statement said. Ambassador Haas.

“Although no drafts have been finalized, we are concerned that they contain provisions which could be used to further intimidate journalists and others wishing to speak out,” he said.

The US ambassador said the founders of the United States found the idea of ​​freedom of the press so important that it became the very first amendment to the US Bill of Rights.

“Of course, that doesn’t mean the United States is perfect when it comes to having a free press,” he said.

In the same RSF World Press Freedom Index, the United States ranks 42nd out of 180 countries. “Frankly, the United States needs to do better,” he said.

The Ambassador highlighted five principles, including the protection of journalists from harassment and violence, noting that journalists play an important role in elections.

“I really hope that these five principles will be respected throughout the election season and beyond,” he said.

Four other standards that Haas highlighted regarding the media are protecting editorial independence without political or economic interference, allowing the media to criticize the government, ensuring that the media is not held responsible for reproducing false statements made by d ‘other and defamation allegations are not used to suppress free speech, to stifle public debate or to silence government critics.

He referenced the Georgia-based Carter Center, a well-regarded authority on elections, while sharing election standards used around the world.

“We all have an obligation to protect the free press and to enable journalists to seek and report the truth without fear, harassment or censorship,” the ambassador said, adding that a free press is a key element of a legitimate and free democracy.

He said the policy of the United States on Bangladeshi elections – or anywhere else for that matter – is that the people of the country should be given the opportunity to choose their own government through free and fair elections conducted in accordance with international standards. .

Calling journalism a noble profession, Ambassador Haas said that increasingly, all over the world, it has become difficult and dangerous.

Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul, US member of Jefferson Media and former president of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ), delivered the keynote address.

Matiur Rahman, Editor-in-Chief of Daily Prothom Alo, Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Ito Naoki, Canadian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Lilly Nicholls and British Deputy High Commissioner Javed Patel also spoke during the discussion.

A minute’s silence was observed in honor of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, tragically killed in the West Bank.

Bulbul highlighted the challenges of journalism and said doing journalism in Bangladesh is like swimming in a pond full of crocodiles.

Matiur Rahman described his personal experience of a long career in journalism and the challenges he and his newspaper have faced.

Sylvia B. Polson