December 13, 2005


Bangladesh's telecommunication act 2001, provides that phone tapping is an offence and punishable with either a six-month imprisonment or fine not exceeding Tk 50,000 or both.

However, the government has amended the law in an presidential order with immediate effect, allowing intelligence and law enforcement agencies to tap telephone conversations of any individual (The Daily Star). According to the ordinance, telephones can be tapped only with the permission of the chief executive of the home ministry. The government says that this was needed to track Islamic millitants, who had created an anarchy in the country in recent times. The experts say that eight million telephone users' rights cannot be violated for misuse of a few hundreds.

In all developed democracies phone tapping is officially strictly controlled to safeguard an individuals' privacy. In United States a federal court authorises requests for surveillance warrants by federal security agencies. The authority is not a politically biased person like the chief executive of the home ministry.

Analysts fear that there remain the possibilities that the conversations of political persons will be tapped to control their political activities and that the ordinance will be used as a tool for realising political interests. They also fear that this 'tool' can be used ahead of the general elections to harass civil society members, alongside the government's political opponents, who raise voice against its misdeeds.

Sadly the governments always think that whoever speaks against them are their enemy. They have not considered discussing the law in parliament before enacting as if people have no opinion in this. Implementations of these types of black laws will only lead the country to a monarchy, withering democracy.


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