If you had to point to one single thing, above all else, that has led to a rapid deterioration in people's perceptions of the way the country is being administered - particularly in the eyes of international actors, of which plenty of evidence has surfaced recently - it would have to be the Digital Security Act. The DSA has acted as the anchor, if you like, in all the misgivings centred around various aspects that have been raised to draw attention to abuse of human rights, or the breakdown of the electoral process, or the shrinking space for a variety of opinions, along with the notable decline in the freedom of the press. It has been used as the legislative proof, there in writing, of the government's lack of intent when it comes to the democratisation of society - indeed quite the opposite.

This week we witnessed it yet again, as the UN's Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights wrapped a nearly two-week stay in the country to assess the situation with regards to his mandate. In his closing press conference, Olivier De Schutter, the special rapporteur recommended suspending the Digital Security Act 'until it is significantly improved'. In doing so, he was adding his voice to that of the UN's human rights commissioner, who in a statement released in April after the editor of Prothom Alo and one of its reporters were sued, called upon the authorities to suspend any further application of the law (a moratorium). De Schutter's criticism of the law wasn't just confined to the press briefing. Apart from engagements in the capital, he also visited Rangpur, Kurigram, and Cox's Bazar during his stay here and spoke to workers, farmers, civil society groups and government officials. He will present a report on his visit to the UN in Geneva in September. And he has already released a 15-page End of Mission Statement. If morning shows the day, his September submission will further taint the government's image at an important forum. Clearly, the only option available to the government to somewhat lighten that blow would be to heed his advice.

Among other things, the special rapporteur reports his "deep concern" at how civic space has been "severely restricted" in the country in recent years. He categorically states that the DSA has been used to suppress independent thought and voices including on the internet. Human rights defenders, students, activists, journalists, opposition politicians and academics have been harassed, detained and, in some cases, allegedly tortured during custody - resulting in death, he says, an obvious reference to the writer Mushtak Ahmed. He was informed by various civil society members about the arbitrary and worrying use of the law "to arrest individuals under a wide range of offences." He reserves particular criticism for Section 32 of the act, and its potential "to curtail debates that may be of public interest."

Now where does that all leave us? For one thing, that the DSA is flawed, and that it has been misused, is already accepted by the government. In the past few months, the law minister himself has admitted as much at various programs, dangling the carrot that it will indeed be amended. Unfortunately there has been a lack of concrete action to back up his words, and given the past experience associated with the passage of the law in October 2018, hasn't inspired confidence.

Now as international pressure starts to tell on the government, it is clear that DSA's critics won't rest till they see concrete action that isn't piecemeal. How much longer can the government afford to carry this albatross around its neck?

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