Bangladesh: Journalists targeted by authorities under the Digital Security Act

On July 10, Bangladesh authorities launched investigations into journalists, Tanvir Hasan Tanu, Rahim Shuvo, and Adbudl Latif Latu, under the Digital Security Act (DSA). The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the government’s investigations into these journalists and urges them to repeal the DSA as it restricts media freedom.

Activists shout slogans during a protest against the Digital Security Act (DSA), in Dhaka. Credit: AFP

A case was filed against the three journalists in Thakurgan after they published reports on the Sadar Hospital for alleged irregularities and corruption concerning the food for COVID-19 patients. The reports were published on Jago News, NewsBangla24.com, and Jugantor, the three news outlets the journalists work for. They claimed that the hospital has given patients Tk60-70 (USD 0.71-0.83) worth of food rather thatn Tk300 (USD 3.54) which is the government requirement.

The investigation was instigated by a complaint by the superintendent of the Thakurgaon Sadar Hospital, Nadirul Aziz Chapal, who claimed that the reports that had been published were done with the intent to defame and spread enmity.

The police report describes how the investigation is being conducted under sections of the DSA that are flagrantly anti-press freedom, including the publication of propaganda, defamatory information, information that creates enmity, hatret and hostility among different classes.

The charges under this legislation carry sentences from three to five years and fines ranging from Tk 300,000 (USD 3,536) to Tk500,000 (USD 5,894).

The DSA has been consistently used in Bangladesh to target dissenting voices within the media ever since it was passed by the parliament in late 2018.

According to human rights organisation, Article 19, more than 457 people were prosecuted and arrested in 198 cases filed under the Digital Security over from the creation of the laws in late 2018 to November 2019. Of this figure, 75 were journalists, representing more than 16% of those charged under the act. Charges under the DSA carry a maximum penalty of 10 million taka (USD $118,000) and up to ten years’ imprisonment.

The Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangbadik Forum (BMSF) said: "BMSF strongly condemned of DSA case of three journalists and arrested of Tanu. We demand immediate withdrawal the DSA case."

The IFJ said: “The use of the Digital Security Act continues to threaten journalists rights and freedom of the press in Bangladesh. The IFJ urges the government to release the three journalists and to repeal this regressive legislation 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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