ARTICLE 19, a UK based International Human RightsOrganization, raised deep concern over a case filed against four reporters including Toufique Imrose Khalidi, Editor-in-Chief of BDnews24.com and Mohiuddin Sarker, the Acting Editor of Jago News. The editors have been sued under Digital Security Act 2018 over follow-up reports on corruption around relief distribution.
ARTICLE 19 works for Freedom of Expression (FoE) and Freedom of Information and calls for not taking any further steps on this case and demands immediate withdrawal of the cases.
Faruq Faisel, the Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh and South Asia said in a statement that,“This is a new addition to the continuity of the cases filed against journalists and freedom of expression defenders by abusing the controversial Sections of the Digital Security Act 2018.”
He said, “The case is filed in such a crucial moment when the journalists are informing about random corruptions happening every day during relief distribution in the remote areas of Bangladesh. Based on these information, Government Administration is taking actions and precautions to stop the corruption. From that point of view, this case put the grassroots-level journalists into high risks while performing their professional responsibilities.”
ARTICLE 19 learnt from the mass media reports that on April 17, 2020, Mominul Islam Bhasani, the President of Thakurgaon's Baliadangi Upazila Swechhasebak League, filed this case at Baliadangi Police Station with a complaint for publishing offensive, false and defamatory news about himself as well as against overall Bangladesh Awami League.
The charges have been brought under Sections 25, 29 and 31 of the Digital Security Act 2018. Shawan Amin and Rahim Shuvo are two more accused in the case apart from Toufique Imrose Khalidi and Mohiuddin Sarker. Faruq Faisel also said, “We observe with deepest concern that within one month, three cases have been filed in a similar manner against the Chief Executives of three mass media agencies, which is unusual in the recent time.”
Previously on March 9, 2020, Saifuzzaman Shikhor, Parliament Member of the ruling party from Magura 1, filed a case at Sher-E-Bangla Nagar Police Station against 32 media workers including Matiur Rahman Chowdhury, the Editor-in-Chief of Daily Manabzamin under section 25, 26, 29 and 31 of the Digital Security Act 2018. One of the accused of this case, journalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol has been missing since the case was filed.
ARTICLE 19 calls for the necessary actions to be taken by the Law Enforcement Agencies to find out Kajol along with for withdrawal of the case.” ARTICLE 19 has been raising its concern in different occasions about the Digital Security Act 2018 being abused as a prime obstacle in Bangladesh for freedom of expression and for establishing free mass media.
Alarming such misuse, many journalists’ forum and associations opposed against the Act before its implementation. ARTICLE 19 demands again for appropriate review of the Act to make it compatible with the International Human Rights Law and standard.