Dhaka, 28 September (RTIF/OurVoice): The Right to Information Forum (RTI Forum) expressed deep concern about the passage of Digital Security Act (DSA) 2018 by the Parliament as some of its provisions have been given undue precedence over those of Right to Information Act 2009.
The DSA in its present form will grossly restrict the scope of people’s access to information under the RTI Act which has been widely held as one of the best opportunities created by the government in empowering people for promoting transparency and accountability.
In a statement RTI Forum observed that some provisions of the Official Secrets Act 1921 have been included in the Digital Security Act 2018 which directly undermines Section 3 of RTI Act provides that it will prevail over any Act that may create impediments in providing information or becomes conflicting with provisions of RTI Act. The Digital Security Act 2018 not only contradicts it, but also raises questions about the Government’s capacity to be consistent in law-making, RTI Forum observed.
It also lamented that the Digital Security Act 2018 creates wide opportunities to restrict the space for raising informed public opinion and demand to ensure transparency and accountability of public institutions, reduce corruption and establish good governance as outlined in the preamble of Right to Information Act 2009.
The Forum further observed that Digital Security Act 2018 is clearly inconsistent with the fundamental constitutional rights to freedom of speech and expression as per Article 39 of the Constitution and, therefore, undermines democracy and human rights which are among the fundamental principles of state policy.
Bangladesh’s commitment under Sustainable Development Goal 16.10 that obliges the Government to promote free flow of information will also become nationally and internationally questionable, RTI Forum further added.
RTI Forum is a coalition of more than 45 organizations and few prominent individuals that played a pivotal role in the enactment of right to information law in 2009 and since then have been supporting the Government in the effective implementation and promotion of the right to information of the people of Bangladesh.