Online safety of journalists, women and human rights defenders stressed

Press Release

[Dhaka, 30 October 2023] VOICE, a human rights-based research and advocacy organization conducted a report dissemination event titled “Online Safety and Privacy of Journalists, Women and Human Rights Defenders (HRDs)” on 30 October 2023 in the DSK conference hall, Mohammadpur in the capital. Participants expressed concerns over the right to privacy and data protection in the emerging digital world dominated by technology, especially for journalists and HRDs while performing professional duties. Journalists, women and human rights defenders attended the event.

In a study report produced by VOICE, it has been observed that, internet users in Bangladesh too often “blindly” trust ICT and internet services and do not have the skills to critically assess what they receive and see online and to appropriately gauge the security of the applications they use. There is no clear action in any law of Bangladesh regarding protecting citizens’ data. However, recently the government has taken initiative to draft Data Protection Act 2022 (DPA) though civil society organizations including VOICE have raised concerns about the efficacy, inclusiveness and acceptance among the fellow citizens. They urge that, stakeholders should get adequate opportunity for reviewing and providing inputs to this law to ensure it meets international standards.

Bangladesh, like many other countries, needs to have a strong legal framework for personal data and privacy so that, right to data protection is not violated without full disclosure. Public awareness, moral values and education on digital rights need to be increased to comply with such laws if enacted because, crimes cannot be stopped through the law alone.

It has been observed that, various laws and regulations that facilitate media control and many government, and non-government hurdles are hindering standard journalism. Numerous obstacles, such as a restricted market, a lack of corporate finance, political culture, a rigid legal system, self-censorship, security concerns, and an absence of organizational will and capability, stand in the way of investigative reporting. 56 journalists have been reportedly targeted by the government and its supporters in the first 3 months of 2023.

“There are so many ways of targeted surveillance on journalists and HRDs who are engaged in investigative journalism,” states Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, Executive Director of VOICE. He urged the participating journalists and HRDs to be aware of their digital safety and follow the standards of digital hygiene to safeguard themselves while performing their job.

Among others, Bayezid Milky, deputy head of news of TV 71, Meer Raihan Masud from Internews, senior journalist Ramen Biswas, Kawsar Uddin, Abdur Rahman, Priangka Acharjee spoke in the event.