Bangladesh newspaper editors protest digital security law

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<pEditors of major daily newspapers in Bangladesh's capital formed a human chain on Monday to protest a new digital security law they say will stifle freedom of speech and media freedom.

<pMembers of the Editors' Council formed the chain in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka and demanded amendments to the recently enacted Digital Security Act, saying many provisions could be used against journalists.

<pSome editors sympathetic to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also joined the rare protest, which was backed by most journalists across the country.

<pThe editors acknowledged the existence of media malpractice and widespread ethics violations, but urged that a press council be strengthened to resolve disputes over any misreporting, and said regular courts can handle defamation and libel cases without the need for police to search journalists and seize digital equipment.

<pMahfuz Anam, the editor of the country's leading English-language newspaper, Daily Star, read the editors' demands and urged Parliament to change the law.

<pAnam, who is also general secretary of the council, said nine provisions of the law needed to be changed to ensure that freedom of speech is not compromised.

<pPresident Abdul Hamid signed the bill into law despite promises by three Cabinet ministers and an adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that journalists' concerns would first be addressed.

<pHasina has defended the law, saying it is meant to protect the country from propaganda and misinformation.

<p"Journalism is surely not for increasing conflict, or for tarnishing the image of the country," she said earlier.

<pOpponents say the law is part of a broader campaign to silence government critics.

<pJournalists in Nepal<pHuman Rights Watch said the law is open to abuse because it allows police to search or arrest suspects without a court order.