“DSA is a threat to implementing public’s right to information”
The controversial Digital Security Act (DSA)- 2018 is a threat to the implementation of the public's right to information, speakers said at a webinar today.
DSA has created a culture of fear which holds people back from reaping the benefits of the Right to Information Act (RTI)-2009, they said.
The speakers also opined that intentional non-disclosure and hiding of public information should be criminalised. If exemplary punishment is ensured in such instances, the tendency to hold back information can be stopped, they added.
ARTICLE 19 hosted the webinar titled -- "Right to Information (RTI) Act to Ensure Accountability" marking the occasion of the International Day for Universal Access to Information 2022, according to a press release.
Md Abdul Hakim, Director of Research, Publication, and Training of the Information Commission spoke at the webinar presided by Faruq Faisel, Regional Director for ARTICLE 19 South Asia.
In Bangladesh, the theme of the International Day for Universal Access to Information 2022 is "Ensure people's right to information in the age of information technology". Meanwhile the UN is set to celebrate the Day globally with the theme- "Artificial intelligence, e-governance, and access to information."
At the webinar, Hakim said that ''Articles 7 and 39 of the Bangladesh Constitution make the RTI Act truly a people's law. The Information Commission has been working to implement the public's right to know."
Sohrab Hasan, Joint Editor of Prothom Alo, said that, "The government enacted the RTI Act in 2009 to ensure transparency and accountability. However, this perspective of the government has now changed. The right to know that was given to people by the RTI Act, has been taken away by the Digital Security Act.''
He called for shortening the time limit for disposal of appeals under the RTI Act.
Faruq Faisel said, ''The Information Commission can play a strong role in the implementation of the RTI Act. Recently, the Commission ordered the Bangladesh Police to provide an applicant with the information sought regarding the cases filed under the DSA. Such verdicts encourage the public and the media to use the RTI Act.''
Participants including Information Commission Official, information and human rights activists, journalists, NGO representatives, students, and youth representatives from across the country participated in it and highlighted the obstacles and challenges in obtaining public information at the local level and shared their experiences.