Dhaka, Bangladesh – At least 20 journalists in Bangladesh have been charged or arrested under the controversial Digital Security Act (DSA) in the past month, raising concerns about free speech in the South Asian nation.
A number of journalists have been arrested for social media posts critical of the government or reporting on the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Nearly 60 cases have been filed against more than 100 people, including 22 journalists, under the DSA this year until May 6, according to a study by Article 19, a UK-based human rights body.
Senior journalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol disappeared on March 10, a day after a politician from the governing Awami League party filed a criminal defamation case against him for publishing “false, offensive, illegally obtained and defamatory” content on Facebook.
A governing party legislator, Saifuzzaman Shikor, filed a defamation case against Kajol, a photographer and editor of the biweekly Pakkhakal magazine, and 31 others, accusing them of linking him to escort services run from a hotel.
Kajol mysteriously turned up in police custody 53 days later on India-Bangladesh border.
He has been slapped with three cases under the DSA, a law rights bodies have described as “draconian”. Police have registered a fourth case against Kajol for “trespassing” into his own country.
If punished, he faces seven years in jail.
Another top editor, Motiur Rahman Chowdhury, was also charged in the same case.
‘A prisoner of conscience’
Amnesty International said Kajol was detained for exercising his right to freedom of expression. “Shafiqul Islam Kajol is a prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally,” the rights body said in a statement released on May 6.
Monorom Polok, Kajol’s son, has pleaded for his father’s release. “My father still hasn’t got the chance to appeal in front of a court as the courts are now shut due to COVID -19 lockdown,” Polok told Al Jazeera.
“Out of humanity and out of kindness, we appeal to our government to consider my father’s pr-existing health conditions and his mental state and immediately release him and drop all charges against him,” he said.
Journalists filing reports critical of the government’s measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus also seemed to have been targeted.
On May 6, at least 11 people, including a cartoonist, two journalists, and a writer, were charged with “spreading rumors and carrying out anti-government activities”.
Swedish-Bangladeshi journalist Tasneem Khalil, US-based journalist Shahed Alam and blogger Asif Mohiuddin also have cases against them under DSA.
On the same day, Didarul Islam Bhuiyan, a member of a politico-civic organization, Rashtrachinta, was arrested for a Facebook post.
“My husband was not involved in any criminal acts, but he was picked up by plain-clothes people who identified themselves as members of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB),” Dilshan Ara, wife of Bhuiyan, told Al Jazeera.
“He is innocent, who merely posted some write-ups on social media criticising the corruption in the relief distribution process; we all have that right to expression under the constitution.
“We want his immediate release, he may get exposed to coronavirus inside the jail.”
Police defend action
Police officials have defended the cases against journalists.
Masudur Rahman, Dhaka Metro Police deputy commissioner media, told Al Jazeera that cases filed on May 6 against 11 people, including journalists, and Bhuiyan were filed by paramilitary RAB for social media postings.
He affirmed that the police would investigate the matter in accordance with the law. “However, it will be up to the court to decide their fate in the end. All of them have been sent to Keranigonj central jail, pending a court hearing,” Rahman told Al Jazeera.
Rights activists have expressed grave concern over the rising number of cases being filed against journalists and critics of the government. They say the DSA law is being used to “gag media and freedom of expression”.
“We are alarmed by nature and procedure followed by authorities to prosecute people in some of the cases under The Digital Security Act (DSA),” Saad Hammadi, South Asia campaigner for Amnesty International, told Al Jazeera.
“When a police official’s justification for taking a DSA case against someone is based on only the fact that a ruling party leader is aggrieved as opposed to determining the necessity and proportion of the actions, it severely compromises the country’s commitment to promote and protect people’s right to freedom of expression,” he said.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on Bangladesh to urgently revise the DSA to ensure that it is in line with international human rights laws.
Rising cases against journalists
More than 1,000 cases have been filed in Bangladesh under the DSA since it was implemented in 2018.
In the last two months, journalists have become more vulnerable, with many media outlets announcing lay-offs due to COVID-19 pandemic that has infected 25,121 and killed 370 people in the country of 160 million.
A group of eminent citizens and journalists unions have called for the release of jailed media workers.
“Digital Security Act can be useful against those who commit cybercrimes, but it should not be used against journalists and media persons,” Farida Yeasmin, general secretary of the Bangladesh National Press Club, told Al Jazeera.
The Bangladesh Editors’ Council (Sampadak Parishad) has also expressed grave concern over the recent cases against journalists.
“No concern is being shown over the merit of the complaints before making arrests,” the Editors’ Council said in a statement.
Last month, Reporters Without Borders published a report that at least nine journalists had been physically attacked and six face charges under the DSA for collecting or publishing news on misappropriation of relief materials.
The Paris-based media watchdog ranks Bangladesh 150 out of 180 countries in its 2019 World Press Freedom Index, a four-point drop from its 2018 ranking.
This Minnesota journalist says there's something important the media is missing about protests – CNN
Katai Leaves Galaxy After Wife’s Racial Social Media Posts… – Mount Royal Soccer
You would hope that the Katai’s weren’t looking forward to an extended stay on America’s west coast.
If they were it’s all been scuppered by some strongly-worded Instagram posts from the player’s wife, Tea in which she called for people to kill protestors, which she referred to as ‘disgusting cattle’.
Now the former Alaves and Red Star Belgrade midfielder and his club have parted ways.
The Galaxy released a statement condemning Tea’s since-deleted comments on Wednesday saying…
“Earlier today, the LA Galaxy were made aware of a series of racist and violent social media posts by Tea Katai, the wife of LA Galaxy midfielder Aleksandar Katai.
“The LA Galaxy stands firmly against racism of any kind, including that which suggests violence or seeks to demean the efforts of those in pursuit of racial equality.”
The player for his part had come out strongly following the comments, distancing himself from his spouse’s posts, although accepting full responsibility.
“These views are not ones that I share and are not tolerated in my family.
“Racism, particularly toward the black community, is not only prevalent in the United States and Europe, but across the globe. I strongly condemn white supremacy, racism and violence towards people of color. Black lives matter. This is a mistake from my family and I take full responsibility.
“I will ensure that my family and I take the necessary actions to learn, understand, listen and support the black community.
“I understand that it will take time to earn back the support of the people of Los Angeles. I am committed to putting in the necessary work to learn from these mistakes and be a better ally and advocate for equality going forward. I am sorry for the pain these posts have caused the LA Galaxy family and all allies in the fight against racism.”
It was not enough to save his LA Galaxy career with the club yesterday producing a terse and final statement confirming Katai’s departure…
“The LA Galaxy have mutually agreed to part with midfielder Aleksander Katai.”
While Tea Katai’s comments are totally and unequivocally unacceptable, you wonder if the player himself has been treated fairly by the club. He did clearly distance himself from the comments, explaining they were not representative of his own views, and in fact verbally came out in support of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement.
Is it right that a player’s future at a football club can be determined in this way by comments, no matter how disgusting, made by another family member, which in the days of social media he had very little, if any, control over?
Katai has ‘accepted full responsibility’, but it must be acknowledged that was part of a carefully worded statement providing apology and certainly designed to prolong his short LA career.
Or is it correct that the former Chicago Fire player is ‘found guilty by association’ and was rightly dismissed?
What do Impact fans think? Would you have expected Montreal Impact to fire a player under the same circumstances?
Are the LA Galaxy right in dispensing with the services for Aleksander Katai due to his wife’s unacceptable Instagram posts?
Yes 100%. He has to go…
Not sure. It’s a grey area. I’m on the fence and think getting rid of the player is too harsh a punishment.
100% No. Katai should not be held accountable for the social media interactions of his wife or any other family member.
7 votes total
GOLDSTEIN: Media deliberately distorted what Trump said about George Floyd – Toronto Sun
Contrary to a globally reported blunder by the media on Friday, President Donald Trump did not say a positive report on U.S. job numbers was “good news for George Floyd.”
Here’s what Trump said:
“Equal justice under the law must mean that every American receives equal treatment in every encounter with law enforcement regardless of race, color, gender, or creed. They have to receive fair treatment from law enforcement. They have to receive it. We all saw what happened last week. We can’t let that happen.
“Hopefully, George is looking down right now and saying, ‘This is a great thing that’s happening for our country.’ It’s a great day for him. It’s a great day for everybody. This is a great day for everybody. This is a great, great day in terms of equality. It’s really what our Constitution requires and it’s what our country is all about.”
Clearly, Trump’s reference to Floyd was in the context of Americans agreeing everyone must be treated equally by police, not optimistic U.S. job numbers.
Despite their obvious blunder about what Trump said, which quickly went global and erupted on social media, few media organizations have corrected it.
Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden, reacting to the inaccurate media reports, said what Trump said was “despicable.”
Some are now arguing it was outrageous for Trump to invoke Floyd’s name — he died in police custody, with the four fired police officers involved now facing a slew of major criminal charges — in any context.
But that deliberately ignores the point, which is that the media got the story wrong.
In another controversy involving Trump, a widely-circulated medical study published in the Lancet claiming patients with COVID-19 were more likely to die or suffer serious side effects from taking hydroxychloroquine has been retracted.
Based on this research, Trump was widely attacked for recommending the use of hydroxychloroquine and saying he was taking it himself to ward off COVID-19.
Trump should not be freelancing medical advice and it was dangerous for him to do so.
But as James Heathers, a research scientist at Boston’s Northeastern University, writing in the Guardian, observed, the retraction of the research paper is also alarming and potentially dangerous.
As Heathers wrote:
“The Lancet is one of the oldest and most respected medical journals in the world. Recently, they published an article on Covid patients receiving hydroxychloroquine with a dire conclusion: the drug increases heartbeat irregularities and decreases hospital survival rates. This result was treated as authoritative, and major drug trials were immediately halted — because why treat anyone with an unsafe drug?
“Now, that Lancet study has been retracted, withdrawn from the literature entirely, at the request of three of its authors who ‘can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources.’
“Given the seriousness of the topic and the consequences of the paper, this is one of the most consequential retractions in modern history.
“How did a paper of such consequence get discarded like a used tissue by some of its authors only days after publication? If the authors don’t trust it now, how did it get published in the first place?”
Heathers says the root problem is with the peer review process which, “at its worst … is merely window dressing that gives the unwarranted appearance of authority, a cursory process which confers no real value, enforces orthodoxy, and overlooks both obvious analytical problems and outright fraud entirely.”
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