Editors' Council on Wednesday said that the government's declaration recognising 29 organisations as "Critical Information Infrastructure (CII)" will create an "added pressure and obstacle" in gathering information by journalists in Bangladesh
Expressing concern over a recent government gazette over the declaration, the council in a statement urged the government to clarify the decision and remove ambiguity from the official notification, which says the decision has been taken in the public interest.
It said that the journalists' right to have access to information has been hampered due to the decision.
The editors' group said that the decision has, however, created a new barrier to ensuring public interest and providing service.
The ICT Division on 3 October declared 29 organisations as CII under the Digital Security Act (DSA) for the safety of sensitive data under which any illegal access to computers, digital devices or networks is a punishable offence.
CII in the controversial act means any external or virtual information infrastructure declared by the government that controls, processes, circulates or preserves any information-data or electronic information and, if damaged or critically affected, may adversely affect public safety or financial security or public health and national security or national integrity or sovereignty.
Section 15 of the DSA authorises the government to declare any computer system, network or information infrastructure as CII.
The law states anyone causing or trying to cause damage to a CII or render it inactive intentionally through illegal access will be doing an offence.
It defines illegal access as "making or abetting to make illegal access to any computer, computer system or computer network" and "making or abetting to make illegal access with intent to commit an offence".
Such an offence will be punished with imprisonment for a maximum term of seven years, or a fine not exceeding Tk2.5 million, or both.
Accessing the systems illegally with the intent of harming it will carry a prison term for a maximum of 14 years, or a fine not exceeding Tk10 million, or both.
A second or further attempt to breach the system illegally will be met with imprisonment for life, or fine not exceeding Tk50 million, or both.
Journalists' groups, and human rights organisations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have criticised the DSA and said it would stifle freedom of expression, but the government says it is needed to protect the people's privacy and sensitive data that matters to the state.