Digital SecurityAct

Case against journos a blow to press freedom: SCBA

21 April 2020

Supreme Court Bar Association President AM Amin Uddin feels the legal action against editors and journalists for reporting corruption deals a huge blow to the freedom of press.
"Such cases are filed to hamper efforts of revealing the truth and thwart people's right to know," Amin Uddin said on Monday.
His comments came in reaction to the case filed against Editor-in-Chief Toufique Imrose Khalidi and three others under the Digital Security Act over a report on the alleged embezzlement of aid in Thakurgaon. "Legal actions like this fuels corruption. Filing such cases against editors and journalists will deter media workers from providing news," he said. "I think such actions are a huge blow to the freedom of media, and also synonymous to snatching away the right of the people to get accurate news." on April 9 reported that Moniruzzaman Mukul, the publicity and publication secretary of Baliadangi Upazila Jubo League, called national emergency helpline 999 after he discovered that rice for the government's Tk 10 OMS programme was being transported
early in the morning to Kusholdangi market of Parua village under Barapolashbari union.
Upazila chief executive or UNO Khairul Alam Sumon later went to the site, seized 68 sacks of rice and detained the transporters. Information from the transporters led to the recovery of another 562 sacks of rice from a warehouse, owned by Amirul Islam Emrul, a local dealer. Mominul Islam Bhasani, president of Swechchhasebak League's Baliadangi unit, went to the police station and started the case on Friday.
Charges were brought against Khalidi, Jago News acting Editor Mohiuddin Sarker and two others - Shaon Amin and Rahim Shubho - Under Sections 25, 29 and 31 of the law that involve offences, such as publishing of offensive, false, defamatory or fear-inducing data or information.
Supreme Court lawyer advocate Manzill Murshid said filing a case against editors and journalists by travelling directly to the police station is an 'innovative way' of encouraging rice thieves and other perpetrators.
"Police stations provide clear instructions that filing a case under Digital Security Act has to be done at the court. But in cases where the truth comes out, some police officers jump at the first opportunity to record the case," Manzill Murshid said, adding that they must be advised against being hasty with cases involving news publications.
Lawyer Murshid, also the president of Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh, pointed out that this instance vindicates initial concerns over the Digital Security Act where it was argued that the legislation would undermine freedom of expression.
Law Reporters' Forum, a guild of journalists who report news on the Supreme Court, condemned the case and demanded its withdrawal.
On Sunday, the Education Reporters Association of Bangladesh or (ERAB), too, harshly criticised the legal move demanding it be swiftly withdrawn.

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