Bangladesh: We must not fail to meet international standards, says Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs

Bangladesh: We must not fail to meet international standards, says Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs - Civic Space

Children use the library and computer training centre on a boat run by Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, an NGO founded in 1998 with a mission to assist the communities living along the vast wetlands of Chalan Beel in Rajshahi district. By building up a fleet of solar powered flat-bottomed boats, all made with locally available materials, Shidhulai provides a range of education, health and training facilities to water-side families.

At a conference in Dhaka on freedom of online expression, organized by ARTICLE 19, Anisul Huq, the Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, said that the 2006 ICT Law has inadequacies which must be addressed. He stated that the law “contains certain offences, such as obscenity and expression of false information, which are vague: laws like this cannot be permanent. Any law should be reviewed every two to three years.”

In his remarks, Thomas Hughes the Executive Director of ARTICLE 19 commented that parts of the law are ambiguous, adding that “any restrictions on freedom of expression should be the least restrictive possible, and should be narrowly defined.”

The conference was held following the release of ARTICLE 19’s report, “The Information and Communications Technology Act, 2006: Implications for Freedom of Online Expression.”┬áThe report highlighted that the Act disproportionately criminalizes several areas of expression which are generally legitimate. The use of vague language in the law also means that there is legal uncertainly, leaving the law open to arbitrary interpretation and application.

The consultation was attended by various stakeholders, parliamentarians, activists, journalists and development partners from the European Union and the United Nations Development Programme. Junaid Ahmed Palack, State Minister for Posts, Telecommunication and ICT also welcomed the consultation as timely, as the Ministry is currently in the process of formulating a cyber-security law. He indicated that revisions to the ICT Act could be considered within this context.