News Desk: The United Nations special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression Irene Khan has demanded immediate repeal of the Digital Security Act.
The act imposes draconian punishments for a wide range of vaguely defined acts in Bangladesh, she said in a report submitted to the 50th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, which began on June 13 and would end on July 8.
Fake news laws generally do not pass the three requirements of legality, legitimate aims, and necessity outlined in article 19(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, said the special rapporteur.
‘An example of such flawed legislation is the Digital Security Act of Bangladesh, which imposes draconian punishments for a wide range of vaguely defined acts encompassing national security, criminal cyber libel and disinformation, and bestows significant and highly intrusive investigative, search and seizure powers on the authorities,’ said Irene.
She said that the use of the act led to the arbitrary detention, torture and custodial death of journalists, and chilled journalism online and offline.
Other examples of countries that have recently adopted or enforced legislation that is not compliant with international standards include Cuba, France, Italy, Malaysia, Qatar and Singapore, among others, she mentioned in the report.
Describing the global situation on media freedom, the special rapporteur said that digital technology enabled ground-breaking investigative reporting, new models of cross-border collaboration, cooperative fact-checking with audiences and access to treasure troves of data and diverse sources with a click.
It has, however, also given rise to unprecedented challenges and changes for the news industry, aggravating existing threats and creating new ones, she said.
Longstanding problems of violent attacks on and legal harassment of journalists with impunity, censorship of content and manipulation of regulatory authorities have been entrenched, aggravated and augmented by digital technology, said Irene Khan.
She recommended the development and implementation of national action plans, based on human rights obligations and tailored to online as well as offline issues, to advance the freedom, independence and pluralism of the media.
States should consult with civil society and journalist organisations in developing, monitoring and assessing their national action plans transparently and inclusively, she said.