Bangladesh: Government crackdown on media has increased during pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has become a pretext for an authoritarian crackdown in Bangladesh, where the government has arrested several journalists, censored free speech and targeted its critics. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urges the authorities to stop the threats and attacks against journalists, social media users and media rights activists.

Muslim devotees offer a special prayer at the Baitul Mukarram National Mosque to start the Eid-al-Fitr festival marking the end of the Islamic holy fasting month of Ramadan in Dhaka on May 25, 2020. Muslims around the world began marking a sombre Eid al-Fitr, many under coronavirus lockdown, but lax restrictions offered respite to worshippers in some countries despite fears of skyrocketing infections. Credit: AFP

The owner of Guardian Publications, Nur Mohammad, was arrested by the police on 10 February at his home in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, on charges of associating with suspects accused of spreading fake news about the Prime Minister and her son, according to media reports.

This case, which falls under the 25th section of the country’s oppressive Digital Security Act, could send Mohammad to prison for life. This section criminalizes any content that tarnishes the image of the nation.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the government has increased its pressure on press freedom and freedom of speech, targeting all journalists, artists or social activists that have spoken out against the government or criticized the government’s response to the health crisis.

Authorities have made huge efforts in censoring media, arresting those who speak out and increasing surveillance on the possible spread of alleged rumours around the Covid-19 virus.

Three journalists were charged on February 4 under the Digital Security Act for publishing material alleged to have the potential to ‘destroy communal harmony and create unrest’.

IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “The Bangladeshi government has exceeded its mandate by censoring and silencing critical voices. We urge the authorities to stop the threats and arbitrary detentions of journalists and media rights activists who exercise their right to express their views and work in freedom"

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries

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