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Bangladesh's ICT law strikes again...and again

Computer lab at the University of Asia Pacific, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 24 October 2007
Computer lab at the University of Asia Pacific, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 24 October 2007

Flickr/Tony Cassidy, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 4 December 2017.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangbadik Forum (BMSF) express serious concern over the continuation of arrests of journalists under the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act in Bangladesh. The IFJ urges the Bangladesh government to drop all charges and immediately release the journalists.

Anisur Rahman, a 33-year-old journalist with Daily Sangbad in Roumari upazilla, Rangpur in northern Bangladesh, was arrested under the controversial Section 57 of the ICT Act on November 21, 2017. He was charged with taking a "screenshot" of a Facebook post involving the president and the prime minister and for showing it to the local people. The journalist denied the allegation.

Similarly, the police arrested two online journalists - Md Layes Mondol and Md Sabid, from Trishal upazila, Mymensingh, northern Bangladesh, on November 21 on charges of publishing a 'false and fabricated' news item involving the Bangladesh Army and a former chief justice. The news was published on the news portal Trishalnews.com on November 16. Layes is the administrator of the news portal while Md Sabid is its news editor.

Meanwhile, The Wire, an Indian online publication, claimed that the Bangladesh government had blocked access to their website a day after publishing an article on the role of the country's military intelligence agency in the illegal pick-up and secret detention of an academician. The Wire report states that the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) e-mailed all internet gateway operators ordering them to "block the domain" urgently following a complaint by a security agency.

The IFJ said: "The IFJ is seriously concerned over the continuation of arrests of journalists under the ICT Law in Bangladesh. The vaguely worded Section 57 of the ICT Act has been widely used to muzzle freedom of speech and the press in Bangladesh. Despite repeated calls from the journalist community, there seems to be no end to misuse of the Act. The IFJ urges the Bangladesh government to immediately release the arrested journalists and ensure that the Act is not used against the citizens' legitimate right to freedom of expression."

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