We are worried at the way the Digital Security Act has increasingly been used to arrest and intimidate journalists across the country. In a recent incident, three journalists were sent to jail by a Narsingdi court in a case filed under this draconian law over quoting a police official without contacting him. According to our report, two local newspapers in the district, one of them online-based, published reports about a man’s death in police custody in which they quoted a police inspector allegedly without contacting him. The police inspector immediately filed a case against the journalists under the Digital Security Act to “protect his dignity.”
If the journalists were indeed guilty of publishing “fabricated and baseless” news, or if they included the inspector’s comments in the reports without contacting him, the police could have addressed the issue in other ways. They could have simply sent a protest letter or rejoinder to the newspapers to address this. But instead, the police official sued them under the Digital Security Act. The speed at which the arrests were made leaves us wondering about whether the act is being used to get justice or as a tool of intimidation.
We feel that the so-called Digital Security Act has been used more to stifle the voices of the journalists and create fear among them. Very recently, four journalists, including bdnews24.com Editor-in-Chief and jagonews24.com acting editor, were sued under this very law for reporting on alleged embezzlement of aid for coronavirus victims. There had been many other instances of the “misuse” of this law in which journalists were targeted.
As journalists across the country have been going through a hard time, there is a positive development that gives us some hope: photojournalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol who went missing on March 10 from Dhaka, has been found in Benapole, Jashore, 53 days after his disappearance. The Benapole Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) deserves our heartiest thanks for finding him and connecting him with his family. A case was filed against him along with 31 others under the Digital Security Act just a day before he went missing. Now that he has been found, we would like to know the reasons for his disappearance and what happened to him during this time. We demand to know the truth.