ARTICLE 19 condemns arrest of journos

ARTICLE 19 has expressed grave concern over the filing of cases and arrests under the Digital Security Act (DSA) 2018 across the country ‘for merely manifesting views on social media’.

A press release of the rights organisation said on Friday the ‘controversial’ Act has further spotlighted the towering crisis in the government's capacity, efficiency, and management in tackling the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic through the arrests of a ninth-grader, university teachers and students, writers, journalists and a cartoonist.

ARTICLE 19, a UK-based human rights organisation, which focuses on the defence and promotion of freedom of expression, has condemned the arrests and urged the authorities concerned to release those arrested under DSA immediately and unconditionally and to withdraw the cases.

According to the statement, Faruq Faisel, Regional Director for ARTICLE 19, Bangladesh and South Asia, said: “There has been failing in the government’s preparedness to control the transmission of coronavirus at the outset of the pandemic. Issues such as incoherence, opacity and mismanagement at policymaking stage to relief distribution at the local level have gradually been crystallised.”

In 2018, ARTICLE 19 recorded a total of 71 cases filed against practitioners of freedom of expression including journalists under the then section 57 of the ICT Act and then newly enacted DSA which came into effect in October of the year.

In 2019, the number of recorded cases initiated under DSA was 63. However, in the first six months of this year, 113 cases have been recorded of this kind. A total of 208 people of different classes and professions have been accused in the cases due to mere expression of opinion, of whom 53 are journalists. Of the accused, 114 were arrested immediately, most of whom are still awaiting bail.