The crackdown on freedom of expression escalated during the pandemic, ARTICLE 19 has said on cases filed under the Digital Security Act
Three people have been arrested under the Digital Security Act, 2018 in two separate cases filed in Narayanganj and Rajbari districts over alleged inflammatory Facebook posts against the prime minister.
In Narayanganj, two men were arrested by the Detective Branch (DB) of police allegedly for posting provocative messages using distorted images of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Kamal on Facebook on Tuesday night.
Imran Hossain, 32, of Talla Choto Masjid area of Narayanganj, and Tariqul, 29, of Nagarpara area of Rupganj upazila, were picked up from their respective homes.
A case was filed against them under the Digital Security Act, 2018 on Wednesday, confirmed Hafizul Islam, media officer of Narayanagnj district superintendent of police’s (SP) office. However, he did not disclose the name of the plaintiff.
Apart from circulating provocative messages on the prime minister and the home minister, the duo had posted similar messages over Hefazat leader Mamunul Haque’s incident, the official said without providing details.
They were later sent to jail through court on Wednesday.
In Rajbari, a youth was arrested on Tuesday in a case filed under the Digital Security Act, 2018 allegedly for criticizing the prime minister on a Facebook post.
The arrestee is Liton Kazi, 27, hailing from Chouromudipur village under Kalukhali upazila.
Kalukhali upazila Chhatra League President Sheikh Md Ripon filed the case against him on Monday. Police produced him before a magistrate on Tuesday who sent him to jail.
457 arrested in 2020
At least 38 DSA cases have been filed in the first three months this year, and among the accused, five are journalists, according to UK-based rights group ARTICLE 19.
In a statement, ARTICLE 19 said they were alarmed by the Bangladesh government’s crackdown on freedom of expression since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Last year, at least 457 people from different backgrounds and professions were prosecuted and arrested in 198 cases filed under the DSA. Of them, 75 were journalists, while others included teachers, students, folk musicians, and cultural artists. Nearly half (32) of the journalists prosecuted were arrested.
On February 25, an author, Mushtaq Ahmed, arrested under the draconian law, died in police custody causing media uproar.
In a statement following Mushtaq’s death, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) demanded that the "repressive" law be abolished.
The graft watchdog observed that by formulating the DSA, a "fatal weapon" had been handed over to the so-called influential people to suppress voices of dissent.
The law allows for up to 10 years’ imprisonment for spreading propaganda against Bangladesh's Liberation War, the national anthem, and national flag using digital devices. Repeated offences carry the maximum penalty of life imprisonment.