DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid has signed a bill into law that has been criticized as stifling freedom of speech.

Press secretary Joynal Abedin says Hamid signed the Digital Security Act on Monday.

Senior editors, journalist groups and human rights groups in and outside Bangladesh had
the bill, saying it could be wielded arbitrarily against government critics.

But Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina defended it in Parliament, saying it was meant to protect the country from propaganda.

It replaces a previous information communication technology law under which many editors and reporters have been sued for defamation.

Observers say Bangladesh’s new law reflects a worrying trend in fledgling Asian democracies.

Journalists in Nepal are combating a similar
that was passed in August.