Dhaka: Bangladesh announced today that it constituted a cyber crime tribunal while works are underway to toughen related laws as part of a series of steps to prevent exploitation religion and defamation of Islam on the internet.
“We are amending the both the Right to Information Act and the Penal Code toughening punitive measures for hurting the people’s religious sentiments,” law minister Barrister Shafique Ahmad told a press conference also joined by Home Minister Mahiuddin Khan Alamgir and two state ministers.
Ahmad told the press conference that the government constituted the country’s first ever cyber crime tribunal appointing a judge in the capital while a process was underway to set up identical special courts at divisional cities including Chittagong.
He said a government committee comprising two Islamic scholars was constituted to identify websites which were either exploiting or defaming the religion while three people were arrested already in line with their recommendations.
Alamgir said the authorities already amended some minor faults in school textbooks in line with Islamic scholars suggestions and took steps against the Textbook Board Chairman for the lapses on his part for the mistakes.
The press conference came three days after Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina pledged stern actions against people to be found defaming and exploiting Islam using the internet as right-wing Islamic parties threatened to wage an intensified street campaign against “atheist bloggers”.
“We are already decided what action to be taken against those responsible for [internet posts and blogs] hurting people’s religion sentiments . . . As a Muslim, I have the responsibility to take action,” she told a meeting of ruling Awami League’s central working committee.
The existing 2006 Right to Information Act prescribed 10 years of imprisonment and penalty up to Taka 1 crore for hurting propels religious sentiments using the internet.
The century old Penal Code, on the other hand, suggests two years of imprisonment alongside penalty for defaming religion and hurting people’s religious sentiment.
The law minister told today’s press conference that the government was examining ways to toughen both the laws alongside their stringent enforcement.
The state minister for law said actions were also ordered against newspapers which carried out reports to exploit religion issuing a directive upon Dhaka’s deputy commissioner.
Bangladesh authorities earlier banned YouTube to prevent the viewing of a defamatory video insulting Prophet Mohammad which earlier sparked worldwide protests in late 2012.
In February this year they closed 12 blogs and Facebook pages for carrying out “malicious publicity” by suspected Islamists amid an intensified nationwide campaign against their stalwarts for 1971 war crimes siding with Pakistani troops.
But the mostly fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and several other Islamist outfits have been alleging that young “anti-Islamic bloggers” were defaming Islam and Prophet Mohammad.
The young bloggers initiated a massive street campaign enforcing a round the clock vigil at Dhaka’s Shahbagh Square for over a month from February this year demanding toughest punishment for perpetrators of “crimes against humanity” siding with Pakistani troops in the name of protecting Islam.
The youngsters earlier rejected the allegation calling it an effort to thwart the ongoing war crimes trial.