In this analysis, ARTICLE 19 reviews the compatibility of the Bangladesh Digital Security Act 2018 (the 2018 Act), adopted in October 2018, for its compliance with international standards on freedom of expression.
Our analysis is based on Bangladesh’s obligations under international human rights standards, in particular those on the right to freedom of expression, as they apply to the domestic guarantees to freedom of expression in the Bangladesh Constitution. This analysis not only examines human rights concerns with specific sections of the 2018 Act, but also offers concrete recommendations on how each section discussed below may be modified to ensure their compatibility with international standards.
Unfortunately, ARTICLE 19’s analysis shows that not only does the 2018 Act expand existing restrictive provisions, it includes several provisions that are in breach of international human rights law. In particular, several definitions contained in the 2018 Act are too vague and overbroad. Summarised in brief:
- The Act vests sweeping blocking powers in a government agency.
- It contains several speech offences, including criminal defamation, defamation of religions, or the sending of ‘offensive’ information that would criminalise a wide range of legitimate expression.
- It grants carte blanche to the government to make rules in areas such as the collection, preservation or decryption of evidence or data, rules that ought to be decided by the Bangladesh Parliament with a view to protect the rights to freedom of expression, privacy and due process.
ARTICLE 19 concludes that the 2018 Act is deeply flawed and that it should be reviewed and its most problematic provisions repealed as a matter of urgency.