Bangladesh editors protest ‘anti-press’ law

Bangladeshi newspapers’ editors on Monday staged a protest demanding sweeping amendments to a newly-enacted digital law that journalists and rights groups say will curb freedom of expression. Critics say the measures — including prison sentences for spreading “negative propaganda” — are an attempt by an increasingly autocratic Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to stifle dissent in the South Asian nation. Sixteen members of the Sampadak Parishad, a council of top editors, stood in front of the national press club in Dhaka, holding their hands to form a human-chain. They also held a banner that read, “abolish the anti-freedom of expression articles in the digital security act”. According to the Digital Security Act 2018, a journalist could be convicted of espionage for entering a government office and gathering information secretly using any electronic device — an offence that would carry a 14-year jail sentence. Mahfuz Anam, editor of Daily Star newspaper, said the protestors were not against the principal of a digital security law, but that in its current form it “opposes independent journalism and free press”. He said nine sections of the newly-passed law should be amended in the final session of Parliament before the general election, due to be held in December or January.

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