[Dhaka, 30 November 2023] VOICE, a human rights-based research and advocacy organization conducted consultation meet titled “Online Safety and Privacy of Journalists, Women and Human Rights Defenders (HRDs)” on 30 November 2023 at Civic Centre, Shyamoli in the capital. Participants expressed concerns over online safety, right to privacy and data protection in the emerging digital world dominated by technology, especially for human rights frontliners. A number of journalists, women and HRDs attended the event. Rezwanul Islam, communications and outreach coordinator, Engage Media, facilitated the event while Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, Executive Director of VOICE chaired at the occasion.
VOICE has 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. Moreover, feminist perspective of online privacy and data protection differs from that of their male counterparts. There is no clear action in any law of Bangladesh regarding protecting citizens’ data.
However, recently Data Protection Act 2022 (DPA) has been approved by the cabinet 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. Especially, women’s digital right of privacy needs to be protected as they face the worst victimisation. To develop the professional capacity of the journalists, women and HRDs, VOICE has introduced comprehensive strategies, guidelines and tools of online safety and security at the event.
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.
“Nowadays continuing standard journalism and practice of human rights face complexed challenges which need to be tackled strategically. VOICE is committed to strengthen the capacity of journalists, women and HRDs through comprehensive technical guidelines so that they can protect themselves from any sort of online attacks and breach of privacy.” 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 online safety tools to safeguard themselves while performing their job.
Among others, senior journalist, Kawsar Uddin, Ismail Hossain, and Priangka Acharjee spoke in the event.