The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Bangladesh Manobodhikari Sambadhik Forum (BMSF) condemns the detention of a journalist for posting allegedly ‘derogatory’ comments about a minister on Facebook. The IFJ demands immediate dropping of the case.
In the early hours of August 1, the police arrested Abdul Latif Morol, a local correspondent for Bangla-language Daily Probaha in the coastal town of Dumaria, about 200 km south of capital Dhaka. The police were acting on a criminal complaint lodged by Subroto Faujdar, the Dumaria correspondent with a rival newspaper Daily Spandan, and a supporter of the ruling party. The complaint alleged that Morol’s Facebook post amounted to defaming Minister for Fisheries and Livestock, Narayan Chandra Chanda.
Two days earlier, on July 30, the Minister was officiating at an event organised by the government’s local livestock department in Dumaria, during which livestock – goats, chickens and ducks – was donated to poor farmers. Local newspapers reports that one of the donated goats died soon thereafter, prompted Morol to post on Facebook “Goat given by state minister in the morning dies in the evening.”
Under Section 57, of Bangladesh’s draconian Information Communication Technology (ICT) Act if a person deliberately publishes any material in the electronic form that “causes to deteriorate law and order, prejudice the image of the state or person or hurt religious beliefs” he/she makes a non-bailable offence and an offender can be awarded minimum seven years in prison up to a maximum of 14 years and a maximum fine of BDT 10 million (about USD 100,000). Press freedom advocates and rights activists have been consistently demanding the repeal of this law which has too broad a sweep, is open to arbitrary use, against democratic values and the spirit of the Constitution itself.
The IFJ said: “The misuse of the draconian ICT Act to detain and harass journalists is a grave threat to freedom of expression in Bangladesh. The Minister of Law, Justice, and Parliamentary Affairs Anisul Huq must fulfil his promise to scrap Section 57 and ensure that similar provisions do not enter the proposed Digital Security Act. We demand the immediate release of Abdul Latif Morol and dropping of all charges against him.”
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946
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