Bangladesh: Cyber Tribunal indicts charges against photojournalist

On November 8, the Dhaka Cyber Tribunal slapped charges against photojournalist, Shafiqul Islam Kajol, for three separate offences under the Digital Security Act (DSA). The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urges Bangladesh authorities to drop the charges immediately and cease intimidating journalists and media workers.

Bangladeshi photojournalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol. Credit: Mehedi Hasan / Dhaka Tribune

Dhaka Cyber Tribunal Judge Ash Sams Joglul Hossain framed charges against Kajol, who is accused of circulating defamatory material about various ministers, lawmakers, and top Jubo Mahila League leaders on social media. The three cases were filed by Awami League lawmaker, Saifuzzaman Shikho, and Jubo Mahila League leaders Usmin Ara Bally and Sumaiya Chowdhury Bonya. 

The tribunal set January 2 for recording witnesses’ depositions. Following the tribunals’ action on November 8, Kajol’s lawyer decided to challenge the legality of the order. 

Kajol was previously targeted using the DSA when Saifuzzaman Shikho, Awami League lawmaker, filed a case against Kajol on March 9 last year for publishing "false news and circulating it on social media". The same Jubo Mahila League leaders, Usmin Ara Bally and Sumaiya Chowdhury Bonya, also filed complaints on March 10 and 11, accusing him of spreading indecent, defamatory, objectionable, and fake information on social media.  

Kajol disappeared on March 10, 2020, a day after a case was filed against him and 31 others under the DSA. After a 53-day disappearance, he was reportedly found trespassing on the Benapole border, a major trade route between Bangladesh and India, and arrested by Border Guard Bangladesh on World Press Freedom Day, May 3, 2020. He was then jailed for three separate cases under the DSA. The High Court granted Kajol bail in late 2020 and after 237 days in jail, he was released on December 25. 

The IFJ said: “The ongoing misuse of law against Shafiqul Islam Kajol is a prime example of the intimidatory tactics Bangladesh authorities employ to silence critical voices and curb a free, democratic press. The IFJ calls on the Bangladesh government to repeal the draconian Digital Security Act and drop the charges against Kajol immediately.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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