National
7 months ago

Call to ensure online safety of journalists, women and human rights defenders

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VOICE, a human rights-based research and advocacy organisation, at a press conference expressed concerns over online safety, right to privacy and data protection in the emerging digital world dominated by technology, especially for human rights frontliners.

The private rights practitioner has raised concern over the recently enacted Data Protection Act 2022 (DPA)’s clarity, efficacy, inclusiveness and acceptance among the citizens.

The organisation said there should be a clear understanding of the process of data protection according to the latest law.

“There are substantial laws and policies in place, but, appropriate mechanism for implementing those is the real challenge," it said.

Voice organised the press conference titled ‘Online safety and privacy of journalists, women and human rights defenders (HRDs)’at Civic Centre’ in the capital on Saturday. 

A number of journalists, women and HRDs attended the event while Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, Executive Director of VOICE chaired the event. Musharrat Mahera, deputy director of VOICE read out the keynote paper. 

Musharrat said, “VOICE observed that internet users in Bangladesh do not have the appropriate skill-set to critically assess what they share online and to appropriately gauge the security of the applications they use.

So, often they are attacked by privacy invasion through spam, malware, etc. by unethical hackers,” she said. 

She said hospitals and other service-oriented businesses often lag behind in protecting big amounts of consumers’ data and are seen to sell them to third parties without notifying the data providers for financial benefits.

"Even, one of the national e-governance sites was hacked and personal data of 50 million citizens were leaked in messaging apps named Telegram," she noted. 

Lately, before the national election 2024, she said defaming political leaders on social media has become a trend through leaking audio records of calls, disinformation campaigns, doctored photos or videos, and so on.

Furthermore, she said there have been reports of data theft in ATM booths and hidden cameras capturing unwanted photos or videos which are a sheer violation of every human’s right to maintain their own privacy.

VOICE Executive Director Ahmed Swapan Mahmud said the Data Protection Act should specify exactly how personal data will be safeguarded and transparent accountability measures should be adopted in the implementation of the law.

The keynote paper cited that, a fair and transparent process should be introduced in terms of targeted surveillance under an independent judiciary system. Especially, privacy invasion and online harassment of journalists, women and human rights defenders should be brought under investigation and justice should prevail. Public awareness, moral values and education on digital rights need to be increased to comply with such laws because crimes cannot be stopped through the law alone. Civil society organisations, media and human rights defenders along with the government should come forward to safeguard citizens’ confidential data and ensure online safety.

Among others, senior journalists Kawsar Uddin, Ismail Hossain and Priangka Acharjee took part in the discussion.

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