New York, February 8, 2021 – In response to Bangladesh authorities’ recent filing of charges under the Digital Security Act against photographer Shafiqul Islam Kajol, writer Mushtaq Ahmed, and cartoonist Kabir Kishore, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:
“We are extremely alarmed by Bangladeshi authorities’ continuous and blatant abuse of the Digital Security Act in an effort to silence any critical reporting in the country,” said Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia researcher. “Authorities should immediately drop the charges against Shafiqul Islam Kajol, Kabir Kishore, and Mushtaq Ahmed, and release Kishore and Ahmed from prison.”
On February 4, police charged Kishore and Ahmed under the Digital Security Act, and charged Shafiqul Islam Kajol yesterday, according to news reports. Kishore and Mushtaq have been jailed since May 2020, according to CPJ research; Kajol was previously detained for nine months and was released on December 25, 2020, according to CPJ research on his case.
Authorities allege that Kishore and Ahmed violated the act by publishing propaganda, false or offensive information, and information that could destroy communal harmony and create unrest, according to police documents reviewed by CPJ. If convicted, they could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 10 million taka (US$118,000), according to the Digital Security Act.
A complaint filed last year alleges that Kajol violated the act by criticizing political leaders and spreading false information on his personal Facebook page, according to CPJ research on his case. Authorities allege that Kajol published false or offensive information, published or transmitted defamatory information, and made unauthorized use of identity information, according to the text of the law and court documents reviewed by CPJ. If convicted, he could face three years in prison each for the charges of publishing false or offensive information and transmitting defamatory information, and up to five years in prison for the charge of unauthorized use of identity information, as well as a fine of 300,000 to 500,000 taka (US$3,500-$6,000), set at the discretion of a judge.