Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor of the tabloid Weekly Blitz, faces Digital Security Act proceedings after publishing eight articles about a family allegedly engaging in criminal and anti-government activities. (Choudhury)

Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury faces Digital Security Act proceedings

On May 6, 2021, Shahana Rashid Sanu, a poet and literary writer, filed a complaint against Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor of the tabloid Weekly Blitz, at the Dhaka Cyber Tribunal, pointing to eight articles published on its website, which accused Sanu and her sons of engaging in criminal and anti-government activities, according to a copy of the complaint, which CPJ reviewed, and Choudhury, who spoke to CPJ by phone.

On June 10, 2021, the Dhaka Cyber Tribunal referred the case to the cybercrime unit of the Dhaka police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for investigation, Choudhury told CPJ. On August 16, 2021, CID officers interrogated Choudhury for around two hours, during which they repeatedly asked him why he published the articles and demanded he reveal his sources, he said.

Section 40 of the Digital Security Act allows authorities 60 days to complete an investigation, which can be extended with judicial approval. The CID submitted applications to extend the investigation period on June 22, 2021, September 30, 2021, and November 17, 2021, according to Choudhury.

On January 23, 2022, Sub-inspector Mehdi Hassan filed an investigative report at the Dhaka Cyber Tribunal which accused Choudhury of violating three sections of the Digital Security Act pertaining to the publication of offensive, false, or threatening information; defamation; and abetment.

The first two offenses can each carry a prison sentence of up to three years and a fine between 300,000 taka (US$3,500) and 500,000 taka (US$5,815), according to the law, which states that abetment carries the same punishment as committing an offense itself.

On February 17, 2022, the Dhaka Cyber Tribunal issued a summons for Choudhury to appear on April 6, 2022, at which time the journalist’s lawyer will file an application for anticipatory bail, Choudhury said, adding that if anticipatory bail is denied, the tribunal will frame, or determine the nature of, the charges against him.

Sub-inspector Hassan, the investigating officer in the case, did not respond to CPJ’s text message requesting comment. Sanu did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment sent via messaging app.

Choudhury was previously arrested in November 2003 when he tried to travel to Israel to participate in a conference with the Hebrew Writers Association, according to CPJ documentation. He was released on bail in May 2005 before he was convicted of sedition and treason in January 2015 and sentenced to seven years in prison, according to CPJ research and Choudhury. Choudhury was also detained from November 2012 to July 2018, when he served concurrent sentences for fraud, sedition, and treason, he said.

In July 2006, two small devices detonated outside the Weekly Blitz office, as CPJ documented.