Brushing aside journalists’ allegation of harassment, Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu on Wednesday argued in favour of section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act.
“There are 2,800 registered newspapers and 1,800 online news portals in the country and several thousand journalists are working there. Very few journalists were arrested under section 57 of the ICT Act and they are getting bail when they are appearing before the courts,” Inu told parliament responding to a supplementary question of opposition MP Pir Fazlur Rahman.
“I don’t think keeping section 57 of the ICT Act is against the human rights.It’s not true that the law is applicable for only for journalists. It is necessary to keep the section 57. The law is designed for 16 crore people to protect and keep them safe. The law was enacted to keep the country safe and to keep children and women safe,” he said.
Inu also argued that the ICT Act was aimed at ensuring the sanctity of state and religions.
He said the ICT Act was formulated if anyone creates anarchy, maligns someone’s character, spreads lie and religious hatred, and destroys communal and religious harmony using social media like Facebook and Twitter.
“This law will be applicable only if anyone makes such mistakes,” he added.
Inu also said Information and Home ministries interfere if the respective ministry finds any allegation of harassment.
Backing the much debated Act, Inu said so far no people went to the higher court to challenge the act.
Earlier, Jatiya Party MP Pir Fazlur Rahman in a supplementary question asked the information minister to say what steps the government has taken to free journalists from the law under the ICT Act.
At least 21 journalists were sued under section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act in the last four months amid growing demand for repeal of the provision which is wide open to misuse.
Though the law minister on several occasions said the section would be scrapped, cases filed against journalists under the provision are on the rise with their leaders as well as rights activists terming it a tool to muzzle the press and freedom of expression.
Media reports show some 11 cases have been filed against 21 journalists since March 1 this year under section 57, and most of the cases are related to news reports.