Webinar on "Only changing the name will not end the misery"

02 January 2024

Press Release 

Dhaka, 2 January 2024 

On 2 January 2024, the Centre for Governance Studies organized a webinar on the Digital Security Act 2018 titled “The Perpetual Misery: The Plight of the Accused Under the Digital Security Act 2018 in Bangladesh” to discuss the experience of the victims and the dimensions of the newly adopted CSA 2023. A presentation was delivered to portray a broad picture of the series of unending plights of the victims under the DSA 2018 Act.    

The presentation was given by the key speaker, Dr. Ali Riaz, a Distinguished Professor at Illinois State University, the webinar included discussions by; Rumky Farhana, Senior Program Officer, Article 19 (Bangladesh and South Asia), Faruq Faisel, Executive Director, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), Didarul Islam Bhuiyan, Economic Coordinator, State Reformation Movement, and Member of the DSA Victim Network, Rayhan Kabir, Advocate, Judge Court, Rangpur, and Md Abdul Kaium, Human Rights Defender and Journalist.

The chair of the webinar was Dr. Manjur A. Chowdhury, the Chairman of CGS. The program was moderated by Zillur Rahman, the Executive Director of CGS. Journalists from various news outlets were present in the webinar and a Q&A session was held after the discussion.

Dr. Ali Riaz emphasized the horrors of the Digital Security Act (DSA) 2018 from the very beginning of the inception of the act. He mentioned the discrepancies in the information given by Law Minister Anisul Huq on the total number of cases filed under the DSA between October 2018 to January 2023, where the number of arrests and charges, prosecutions, convictions, pretrial detainees, and total incarcerated individuals was missing. He gave the statistics and enlightened the discussant about the lengthy and ongoing misery of the DSA Victims. He said, “There needs to be an independent investigation of the cases.”

Rumky Farhana stated that the changes in the security act of Bangladesh changed every time before the country was heading toward its national elections. Article 19 is working from the establishment of the Act. She said, “A country’s law is there to safeguard the citizens but the DSA is doing the opposite of it.” As the DSA has been reformed in CSA, she demanded the dismissal of the cases filed under the DSA, justice for the victims of it, and legal steps against those who have been abusing the act.

“Digital Security Act is providing safety to a political party when it should provide safety to the actual owner of the state, its citizens”, said Faruq Faisel. He mentioned how Article 19’s London office provided an analysis to the law ministry that the DSA is contradictory to the international agreements and treaties and however, the government did not respond to it. He emphasized the collaboration of different civil stakeholders to act on this unfair law to bring good governance in Bangladesh.

Didarul Islam Bhuiyan shared his horrific experience of forced disappearance and the staged case that was filed against him. He was abducted before a case could be filed against him and the case was filed way after he was arrested. He also mentioned the heartbreaking death story of writer Mushtaq Ahmed. He said, “Mushtaq was not dead, he was killed.”

“This law has been enacted to protect the dignity of MPs and powerful people”, said Raihan Kabir. He stated that this act has been decreasing the trust of people in the judicial system of Bangladesh. He shed light on articles 25, and 29 of the Act which is bailable but in reality, victims of the cases do not get bail. He also mentioned the case of Shirajum Munira.

Md Abdul Kaium said the Act grants bail only to those who are beneficial to the government but those who hold strong and bold opinions opposing the government become the victim of the law. He said, “Other laws of the country are negligible in front of this law.” His case under the DSA is ongoing even though the act has been reformed.

Dr. Manjur A. Chowdhury said whether it is the DSA or the CSA, the law has been decreasing the freedom of expression. Even the dead people are not spared from the act. He said, “We are boiled frogs in this situation and there is no salvation”.

Zillur Rahman concluded the session by expressing his concern about the current situation and mentioned how eventually it is going to get worse. He said it is possible to criticize God but not the politicians of this country. He asked the question of how the cases are to be continued if the act has been reformed.