Participants of university of Rajshahi.
A study conducted under a FNF and EU co-funded project (Fostering Responsible Digital Citizenship to Promote Freedom of Expression in Bangladesh) shows that only 20% of the university students report that they can express themselves freely in the digital space, especially in relation to critical topics. Many are not aware of the fact that cyber offences such as hate speech are punishable by the country’s digital security laws. For instance, only 34% report knowledge on digital security laws and internet/social media etiquettes.
While it is important to ensure digital safety for the youth – the most frequent users of digital platforms, mainly social media – there has been much speculation about attempts to curb free expression. The Bangladeshi youth increasingly use the internet and social media to express their views on the political, social, economic and cultural aspects of the country. Democratic processes such as public discussions and protests are happening more on social media than on the streets.
The project aims to work with the youth on digital safety and literacy through interactive learning sessions.
The project aims to uphold constitutional right to free expression, by initiating dialogue and recommendations on making the laws more protective than punitive.
The Bangladesh government’s recent policies have been largely steered towards digitisation. On the one hand, the internet was made affordable and accessible to all; and on the other, digital security laws were enacted to ensure online safety. The Digital Security Act 2018 recognised acts such as online sexual harassment, bullying or hate speech as punishable offences, but it also makes open criticism of the government and its actions punishable.
In this context, the project aims to work with the youth on digital safety and literacy through interactive learning sessions (peer-learning and open access e-learning portals) based on a guideline developed on digital citizenship. In addition, through advocacy with teachers, journalists and government authorities, the project aims to uphold constitutional right to free expression, by initiating dialogue and recommendations on making the laws more protective than punitive.