Bangladesh is passing an unprecedented difficult time. The Bangladesh government appears to be cracking down on free speech as COVID-19 hits the country, silencing those who express concern over the government’s handling of the epidemic.
Persistent suppression of freedom of expression and censorship under the government has continued amid the pandemic. Journalists are being prosecuted under the Digital Security Act and arrested, harassed for reporting on government’s corruption. It seems criticism of the government in social media under the current regime is a ‘crime’. Writers, cartoonists, artists, teachers, students, political activists, journalists, social activists none are excluded from this list of arrestee. The Digital Security Act is being used as a tool to repress all dissents and criticisms. They are being prosecuted, arrested and even made disappeared. Numbers of doctors have raised serious doubts about the quality of PPEs, especially masks, provided by the authorities concerned and their voices being repressed, intimidated and show-caused for speaking out. Agents from intelligence agencies are visiting hospitals to intimidate authorities and directing healthcare professionals not to talk to the media. The Bangladesh government has taken advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to ramp up its assault on civic freedoms. Journalists have been systematically targeted since March 2020 under the draconian Digital Security Act for their reporting on the pandemic and on other critical issues. There have also been reports of journalists allegedly being tortured or forcibly disappeared. The below graph shows a growing trend of journalists harassment in various forms including harassment using DSA, treats from ruling party members and law enforcing agencies over one year (November 2019-December 2020).