In Bangladesh, ‘Freedom of Speech & Press’ is becoming increasingly dangerous. The Digital Security Act (2018) case is filed after criticizing various decisions of the government.

Inqilab Bangladeshi Daily Newspaper, AMM Bahauddin, the newspaper’s editor, and Selim Sarkar, a reporter of the newspaper, were sued under the Digital Security Act over the June 26 commentary report, “Remove HT Imam.” HT Imam is a political advisor to the Bangladesh government. Police said, “a case was filed against the journalist and the concerned reporter of the newspaper for publishing news insulting the Prime Minister’s adviser.”

On May 20, a case was filed against Sushanta Das Gupta, editor and publisher of ‘Amar Habiganj’ under the Digital Security Act for publishing news against the corruption and irregularities of Habiganj-3 Member of Parliament Mohammad Abu Zaher. And the police arrested him the next day.

Emon (15) is a Bangladeshi Boy. He was recently sued under the Digital Security Act for criticizing the budget for imposing an additional tax on talking on a mobile phone. Police arrested him and said that a case had been registered against him for insulting the Prime Minister. Police arrested him on June 20 and sent him for correction.

Saifuzzaman Shekhar, an MP from Magura-1 constituency, filed a case under the Digital Act against 32 people, including photojournalist Kajol, at Dhaka’s Sher-e-Bangla Nagar Police Station on March 9th under the government’s controversial law. He filed the lawsuit against Shamima Noor Papia, leader of the Young Women’s League, over reports that she was “involved” in the Westin hotel business.

Didar Bhuiyan, a member of ‘Rashtrachinta’, also a member of a committee set up to monitor the relief efforts launched by the Bangladesh government on the Corona epidemic. In a self-published report, Didar complained that the poorest people received the least share of government relief. Cartoonist, a University teacher, has recently been arrested under the law. Digital Security Act was adopted in October 2018. The provision passed the Parliament of Bangladesh in September 2018. The act was controversial as it would allow police officers to detain people without a warrant.

The act was opposed by members of the media, the opposition Jatiya Party, and human rights organizations. The act was created using Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act, which was passed in 2006, as the model. The act was protested by the Editors’ Council.

The Digital Security Act (DSA) has been in force since October 9, 2018. According to ‘Article 19’, a total of 108 cases have been registered till June 26, 2020. The total number of accused in these cases is 204. Of them, 46 are journalists, and 180 are working in other professions and ordinary people. As such, about 25 percent of the accused are journalists.

Of these, 10 cases were filed under the Digital Security Act on January, 9 on February, 13 on March, 24 on April, 31 in May and 23 till June 26. ‘Article 19’ says that in 2019, there were 63 cases under the Digital Security Act. In 2016, there were 61 cases under DSA and ICT Act.

A comparative analysis shows that in 2019, a total of 63 cases were registered in one year. And there have been more cases in the first six months of this year, 109.

British Human Rights Organisation ‘Article19’ Published a report about the ‘Digital Security Act’ 12 November 2019. (a)The Act vests sweeping blocking powers in a government agency. (b) It contains several speech offenses, including criminal defamation, defamation of religions, or the sending of ‘offensive’ information that would criminalize a wide range of legitimate expression. (c) It grants carte blanche to the government to make rules in areas such as the collection, preservation, or decryption of evidence or data, rules that ought to be decided by the Bangladesh Parliament to protect the rights to freedom of expression, privacy, and due process.

Human Rights Watch Asia Director ‘Brad Adams’ added Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina should instruct the police in public not to arrest people for criticizing her or other government officials. He should order the release of all children who can be safely released in juvenile detention facilities, prisons, and other detention centers. And she must make sure that no child is in custody for any Facebook post.

Tanbirul Miraj Ripon (Bangladesh)


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