Friday, May 8th, 2020

Bangladesh urged to drop charges against journalists, cartoonist

Published 9:28 pm | May 08, 2020

dainik somoy sangbad

Online Desk : Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called upon the Bangladesh government to withdraw charges against journalists and a cartoonist. It has also demanded their immediate release and repeal of the Digital Security Act.

“It is only an insecure and authoritarian government that uses a pandemic to arrest cartoonists, journalists, and activists,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch on Friday.

“Instead of filing cases that could result in life imprisonment simply for posting satire, the ruling Awami League should take note of the criticism and try to address any gaps in the government’s response to COVID-19,” he added.

Adams also said, “The government should stop harassing journalists, activists, doctors, and nurses for voicing concern and instead address the urgent need for aid, transparency, and resources that have them raising the alarm in the first place.”

About the latest cases against 11 people, including a cartoonist and two journalists, the HRW said Bangladesh government have arrested four people and charged seven others for ‘spreading rumours and misinformation on Facebook,’ because they criticised the government’s response to COVID-19.

According to the First Information Report filed with Ramna Police Station, the 11 were charged under the Digital Security Act for ‘knowingly posting rumours against the father of the nation, the liberation war, and the coronavirus pandemic to negatively affect the nation’s image,’ and to ’cause the law and order situation to deteriorate.’

Ahmed Kabir Kishore, a cartoonist; Mushtaq Ahmed, a writer and activist; Didarul Bhuiyan, an activist; and Minhaz Mannan Emon, director of the Dhaka Stock Exchange, are in custody.

The others facing charges are journalists Tasneem Khalil and Shahed Alam, blogger Asif Mohiuddin and activists Saer Zulkarnain, Ashiq Imran, Philipp Schumacher, and Swapan Wahed — all of whom live outside Bangladesh. The authorities also brought charges against 5 or 6 ‘unnamed’ individuals.

The Digital Security Act has been repeatedly criticized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United States, the European Union, journalists in Bangladesh, and many others for violating Bangladesh’s commitments under international law. “It is vital for the Bangladesh government to recognise that freedom of speech is key in the battle against Covid-19,” Adams said.

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