CII announcement is a threat to independent journalism
In the name of protecting information from cyber attacks, the editorial board feels that the declaration of 29 government institutions as critical information infrastructure (CII) is a threat to independent journalism.
This was stated in a press release signed by President Mahfuz Anam and General Secretary Dewan Hanif Mahmud on Wednesday.
The government has recently declared 29 government institutions, including the office of the president and prime minister, as critical information infrastructure to protect sensitive and important information from cyber attacks. Taking cyber security into account, the Information and Communication Technology Department has recently issued a notification in this regard, declaring these institutions as CII as per the provisions of Section 15 of the Digital Security Act-2018.
According to the statement of the editorial board, the right of journalists to get information has been disturbed due to the declaration of 29 government institutions as CII. Because these institutions are concerned with public interest. By issuing this notification, there will be no opportunity to get information related to public service and service assurance by concerned institutions, which is a threat to independent journalism. At the same time, this notification will encourage internal corruption, irregularities and unaccountability in the concerned institutions. Right to information is currently recognized as a fundamental right under the Right to Information Act, but the notification issued to 29 institutions as CII requires detailed clarification.
Institutions declared as CIIs include the offices of the President and Prime Minister as well as financial sector regulatory bodies such as Bangladesh Bank, National Board of Revenue (NBR) and Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (BSEC). The list also includes Bridges Division, Directorate of Immigration and Passport, National Data Center and Bangladesh Computer Council, National Identity Registration Division and Election Commission Secretariat, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Bangladesh Power Development Board, Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company, Bangabandhu Satellite Company Limited etc.
Illegal access to critical information infrastructure is punishable by imprisonment for up to seven years or a fine of up to Tk 25 lakh or both. Illegal entry into the infrastructure and causing damage or attempting to cause damage is punishable with imprisonment for 14 years or a maximum fine of Tk 1 crore or both. In addition, if a person commits the said offense for the second time or again, there is a provision of imprisonment for life or a fine not exceeding five crore rupees or both.
The editorial board said that the Digital Security Act-2018 is already creating obstacles in the field of freedom of speech and intellectual freedom, including social media. Journalists, jurists, human rights activists, representatives of civil society, and several government ministers and members of parliament have continued to express various suggestions, recommendations and concerns about the changes, modifications, separations and additions of the law.
Earlier, without discussion with the stakeholders, the editorial council had made a statement expressing concern about the amendment of the Press Council Act.