Bangladesh is considering the introduction of a new law that would further limit freedom of expression and belief in the country, a senior Bangladeshi journalist warns.
The Digital Security Act, a draft of which has been approved by the government, will include a section that “criminalizes online content regarded as defamatory and blasphemous”, the journalist writes, under the pseudonym of Dhrubo Tara, in La Croix International.
He says the government wants to use the law “to curb online crime and terrorism following a deadly rise of militancy”, but, he adds, “the act also includes some controversial provisions that would thwart freedom of expression” – including penalties for “hurting religious sentiments, defamation, causing deterioration of law and order and instigating against any person or organization through electronic media or websites”.
In recent years Bangladesh has seen an increase in attacks by militant Islamists, in which secular bloggers, free thinkers, Christians and members of other minority groups have been targeted, as well as foreigners.
Christians, who according to the charity Open Doors International comprise just 0.5% of the population, face various challenges because of their faith, as World Watch Monitor has reported. But Pope Francis’ visit to the country in December has done much for “a better understanding, and therefore scope for collaboration, between the government and the Christian community”, says Dr. Benedict Alo D’Rozario, the former executive director at Caritas Bangladesh, who helped organise the papal visit. “Pope Francis enabled a spiritual renewal among Christians and enhanced respect between religions”, he writes for the Catholic news site UCAN.