783 cases filed under DSA in 14 months, according to police data quoted by CGS
The controversial Digital Security Act (DSA) needs to be revoked as it is tarnishing the international image of Bangladesh and creating an environment of fear, speakers at a webinar have said.
The webinar was organized by the Centre for Governance Studies (CGS) on Saturday.
Jurist Shahdeen Malik labelled the DSA as the “weirdest of weird laws” and said he had never come across a similar law anywhere else in the world.
“This law is taking the country backwards. Criticism of public figures or functionaries cannot be defamation. People have the right to voice their opinions,” he added, recommending that the law be repealed immediately.
Faruq Faisel, regional director of Article19 for Bangladesh and South Asia, said the DSA had been enacted to protect only the leaders and activists of a particular political party, not everyone.
“I don’t see any rational reason for this law to exist. The international image of Bangladesh is being tarnished by this act,” he added.
He also said 13 countries had called for a proper investigation into the death of writer Mushtaq Ahmed in prison.
“That they have called for an investigation means these countries are watching us,” Faruq said.
Fisheries and Livestock Minister SM Rezaul Karim said Mushtaq’s death was unfortunate and the government would look into it.
He also said that some other accused were dying in prison owing to various health reasons.
“We want a way out of the culture of impunity. No law is perfect. It can be revised if needed,” the minister added, mentioning that the state had brought the murderers of blogger and secular writer Avijit Roy to justice.
Dr Ali Riaz, professor at the University of Illinois in the US, said the ICT Act had been revised but the resulting DSA was even worse..
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“A section of journalists is not bothered by the DSA because they get favours from the ruling party,” he claimed.
A total of 783 cases have been filed under the DSA from January 2020 to February 25, 2021, according to data CGS collected from Bangladesh Police headquarters. Most of the cases were filed against journalists.
CGS was able to collect details relating to 402 of the 783 cases filed, so far.
Of the 873 people accused in the 402 cases, 13.68% are journalists, 13.39% are political leaders, 5.68% are students, 2.91 % are teachers, 2.18 % work in the private sector, 2.18% are entrepreneurs, 1.75% are government officials, 0.73% are NGO workers, and 0.44% are lawyers.
At least 122 cases were filed in Dhaka district, 27 in Chittagong, 14 in Manikganj, 11 in each of Kushtia, Narayanganj, and Sylhet, and 5 in other districts