In the first three months of this year, 38 cases were filed under the Digital Security Act against individuals exercising their right to freedom of expression.
At least five journalists were among those charged in the cases, revealed Article 19, a British organisation that promotes the right to freedom of speech, yesterday.
“We are extremely concerned to see the number of cases and arrests made against those who were publishing news or expressing their opinions about corruption or ethical violations,” said Article 19.
Recently, there have been allegations against a ruling party parliamentarian for vandalising the office of “Amar Habiganj” newspaper, stated Article 19.
On April 19, the newspaper had published a news regarding allegations that the parliamentarian occupied land belonging to a local temple.
“The victims claimed that the attack on their newsroom took place at the direct instructions of the MP while the police stood by watching,” said Article 19’s press release.
Following this, the attackers filed a case accusing the newspaper’s editor of attacking them.
In addition, the city corporation mayors of Khulna and Rangpur filed two DSA cases against two journalists for publishing news against them. Abu Tayeb, the journalist from Khulna was even arrested on April 21, pointed out the press release.
He is still languishing in jail, they added.
The Rangpur mayor filed a case against a journalist named Ratan Sarkar for putting up a Facebook status about corruption by the mayor.
“Ratan Sarkar was physically assaulted before. He is now living in fear of being arrested or worse,” said the statement.
“We strongly condemn these arrests, attacks and cases,” the organisation said in the statement, adding that the journalists must be released unconditionally and that the cases against them must be retracted.
The organisation also invited the authorities to investigate the alleged attack that took place at the “Amar Habiganj” office.
“The powerful have always used the Digital Security Act to repress those disclosing instances of corruption,” said Faruq Faisel, the regional director of Article 19 in Bangladesh and South Asia.
Most of those filing cases under this law belong to the ruling party, he added. “Its abuse during the pandemic has risen to worrying levels.”
The statement said that the DSA should be used to regulate issues regarding cyber security.
“It is mentioned in the law that the case must be disposed of within 120 days, with a possible extension of a further 90 days. If this case was followed as written, writer Mushtaq Ahmed would not have had to die in jail,” it said.
Faisel invited the government to reconsider the law.
Source: The Daily Star