Police are seen in Narayanganj, Bangladesh, on September 6, 2020. Police recently arrested journalist Abu Tayeb jailed under the Digital Security Act. (AFP/Munir Uz Zaman)

Bangladesh journalist Abu Tayeb jailed under Digital Security Act

New York, April 23, 2021 – Bangladesh authorities should immediately and unconditionally release journalist Abu Tayeb, and reform the country’s draconian Digital Security Act, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

At about 10 p.m. on April 20, police in the central city of Khulna arrested Tayeb, a correspondent for the broadcaster NTV and Khulna Gazette and Dainik Loksomaj newspapers, after the city’s mayor, Talukder Abdul Khalek, filed a Digital Security Act case against him, according to multiple news reports.

Yesterday, a Khulna court denied Tayeb’s request for bail and sent him to jail pending an investigation into that complaint, those reports said. Several lawyers are working on the journalist’s case, according to Rezaur Rahman Lenin, a Dhaka-based human rights consultant for the U.N. Resident Coordinator’s Office, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.

“The Digital Security Act continues to provide an avenue to harass and intimidate journalists for raising questions and reporting critically in Bangladesh,” said Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia researcher. “Khulna city authorities must immediately drop the case against journalist Abu Tayeb and release him from prison.”

Tayeb frequently reports local news in Khulna and on corruption allegations, according to Lenin and CPJ’s review of his work.

In his Digital Security Act complaint, Khalek alleged that Tayeb spread false news about him on social media and defamed his image and reputation, according to those reports.

In a recent Facebook post, Tayeb alleged that a local company was evading taxes and was affiliated with the mayor, according to a report by Deutsche Welle, which stated that Khalek denied those allegations.

Tayeb’s Facebook page has since been locked; CPJ was unable to view that post. Mashuk Iftikhar, the journalist’s son, told CPJ in a phone interview that Tayeb mostly wrote personal posts on Facebook and occasionally some news and political commentary, and had about 2,000 friends.

CPJ called and texted two lawyers working on Tayeb’s case but did not immediately receive any replies.

CPJ emailed Khalek for comment, but did not receive any reply, and a call to his phone did not go through. CPJ emailed Md. Chagir Mia, the deputy inspector-general of prisons in Khulna for comment, but did not receive any reply.

CPJ has documented how the Digital Security Act has been weaponized against journalists, and has called for its repeal. As of December 1, 2020, six journalists in Bangladesh were jailed under the act, according to CPJ research.