Uphold citizens’ right to privacy

Publish: 9:18 PM, December 4, 2021 | Update: 9:18:PM, December 4, 2021

We note with increasing worry the growing trend of eavesdropping on citizens’ private or personal communication made through telephone, text message and videos for purely individual and selfish ends. Knowing the same to be illegal activities, there seems to be no urge in any quarters to bring such unlawful behaviour under due control.

The prevailing laws allow only for selective or limited curbs on such privacy on grounds of national security and maintenance of law and order. But in these cases the security agencies need to take the prior approval of the Home Minister before engaging in such tapping or interference in the communication between private persons.

But in reality we see flagrant violation of these rights of citizens to privacy. Rather we see wanton flouting of these requirements to obtain permission and for limited use of interference by eligible authorities.

In many growing cases the privacy rights are most illegally and selfishly violated throwing all legalities to the winds to fulfill ulterior motives which prove detrimental to citizens’ interests, dignity, honour and social position. Even the Constitution of Bangladesh in specific clauses guarantee the rights to privacy of all citizens of the country.

But bewilderingly this right is not seen reflected or manifested in reality that creates the justification for demanding its full observance under the canons of the law. A free and democratic society requires respect for the autonomy of individuals, and limits on the power of both state and private organizations to intrude on that autonomy.

Privacy is a key value which underpins human dignity and other key values such as freedom of association and freedom of speech . Privacy is a basic human right and the reasonable expectation of every person. The slogan adopted to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was “All Human Rights for All” and we know that all human rights include the right to privacy.

Though, the issue of “privacy” is not considered seriously in countries like Bangladesh, there is hardly anyone here who will not like to have a private life and every or some moments of his life will be the talking issue of other people. The Governments and rulers of different countries tried to infringe citizens right to privacy on the ground of state security. For that, sometime they had to receive unwanted consequence also.

President Richard Nixon of USA, though the President and is also called the most powerful man of the world, had to resign as he tried to spying the office of the opposition party, which is popularly known as “Watergate Conspiracy”. After the terrorist attack in 9/11, US President George Bush did the same thing of spying and secretly monitored the international phone calls made by the foreigners.

In Bangladesh, the Government amended the provision of the Bangladesh Telecommunications Act, 2001 to monitor the mobile phone calls made by the citizens so that the members of intelligent agencies can have information about the movement of militants and sources of their funding.

The Government has also demonstrated some success also by applying this instrument, even though people from all strata feel worried as they think that the Government may use this method to suppress the activists of opposition and anti-government movement.

Civil societies of this country expect that there should be some strict and concrete rules effectively regulating violation on political reasons and more importantly denigration of individual respect and position in society . In 1959, the International Commission of Jurists, which is affiliated, to UNESCO convened the Declaration of Delhi on Rule of Law, 1959 with the attendance of 50 countries.

The words of the Declaration say that to ensure Rule of Law in a society, five things must be ensured including the citizen who is wronged by the Government.

They should have a remedy. Accordingly we can say that the Government may eavesdrop and tape phone calling but for that Government should pay compensation for any unnecessary harassment. Thus, citizens right to privacy will be protected.