Participants in a discussion have expressed concern about the right to privacy and data protection in the emerging digital world, especially for journalists and human rights activists while on duty.
Journalists and women and human rights defenders, who participated in the event at the DSK conference hall in Mohammadpur in Dhaka city on Monday, expressed their concern.
During the discussion, VOICE, a human rights-based research and advocacy organisation, presented a report titled “Online Safety and Privacy of Journalists, Women, and Human Rights Defenders (HRDs)”.
Internet users in Bangladesh often trust ICT and online services without critical evaluation, lacking the skills to assess online content and application security, participants at the event said.
Bangladesh’s laws do not clearly address the protection of citizens’ data, they emphasised.
They pointed out that the government has taken an initiative to draft the Data Protection Act 2022 (DPA), though civil society organisations, including VOICE, have raised concerns about its efficacy, inclusiveness and acceptance among fellow citizens.
They stressed the importance of stakeholders having an adequate opportunity to review and provide input to ensure that this law meets international standards.
Like many other countries, Bangladesh needs a strong legal framework for personal data and privacy to prevent data protection rights from being violated without full disclosure, participants added.
Increasing public awareness, moral values and education on digital rights is essential for compliance if such laws are enacted, as addressing crimes do not depend on the law alone, according to participants.
Various laws and regulations that facilitate media control and many government and non-government hurdles are hindering standard journalism, they observed.
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 organisational will and capability stand in the way of investigative reporting, they added.
According to reports, 56 journalists have been targeted by the government and its supporters in the first three months of 2023.
“There are so many ways of carrying out targeted surveillance on journalists and HRDs who are engaged in investigative journalism,” said Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, executive director of VOICE, at the discussion.
He urged the participating journalists and human rights defenders to be aware of their digital safety and follow the standards of digital hygiene to safeguard themselves while performing their duties.