Asia-Pacific Bangladesh Crime & Justice Editors' Choice Featured Finance Headlines Human Rights Human Rights Watch (HRW) Peace Press Freedom Regional Categories Shahidul Alam TerraViva United Nations

Impunity and Harsh Laws Trouble Journalists in South Asia as Protesters March on the U.N. For Release of Bangladeshi Journalist

Impunity and Harsh Laws Trouble Journalists in South Asia as Protesters March on the U.N. For Release of Bangladeshi Journalist
Asia-Pacific, Crime & Justice, Editors’ Selection, Featured, Headlines, Human Rights, Peace, Press Freedom, Regional Classes, TerraViva United Nations

A scholar walks by a board displaying names of freedom fighters. The New Digital Safety Act 2018 makes talking towards any freedom fighter chief a punishable offence. Credit score: Stella Paul/IPS

HYDERBAD, Sep 28 2018 (IPS) – It has been six and half years since the killing of Bangladeshi journalists Meherun Runi and Sagar Sarwar in Dhaka. Runi, a senior reporter from the personal TV channel ATN Bangla, and her husband Sarwar, information editor from Maasranga TV, have been hacked to dying at their residence on Feb. 11, 2012.

Years later, with no official updates on the progress of the investigation, their households watch for justice as the worry of impunity looms giant.

The environment in Bangladesh’s journalism as we speak is one of trepidation and warning.

It has witnessed a collection of assaults towards college students and journalists in the capital metropolis of Dhaka, adopted by the passing of a cyber regulation that has come beneath scathing criticism.

The Digital Safety Invoice 2018, handed on Sept. 19 has been strongly criticised by journalists, who’ve referred to as it a device designed to gag the press and freedom of speech.

The draft invoice had been truly launched final yr, and there had been robust calls for for amending a number of provisions of the regulation. The federal government had publicly promised to think about the calls for. Nevertheless, on the recommendation of the regulation makers, the authorities determined to go forward with none modifications and handed it final week. 

IPS Journalists worldwide stand in solidarity for press freedom and be a part of the Nobel Laureates and 17 eminent international residents, and British MP Tulip Siddiq as they name for the speedy launch of Shahidul Alam. IPS additionally requires the launch of journalists who’ve been detained in the course of obligation throughout the globe, together with these in the Congo, Turkey, and Myanmar.

IPS has famous with concern the more and more repressive setting that our reporters are working in and name on governments to evaluate their media legal guidelines and help press freedom. It’s extremely necessary for IPS that our reporters are protected as they do their work in holding governments and establishments to account.

One of the most worrying provisions of the regulation (part 43) is that it permits the police to arrest or search people and not using a warrant.

Different provisions of the regulation consists of 14 years of imprisonment for anybody who commits any crime or assists anybody in committing crimes utilizing a pc, digital gadget, pc community, digital community or another digital medium.

As anticipated, the new regulation has come underneath scathing criticism of the media.

“The act goes against the spirit of the Liberation War. Independent journalism will be under threat in the coming days. We thought the government would accept our [Sampadak Parishad’s] suggestions for the sake of independent journalism, freedom of expression and free thinking, but it did not,” stated Naem Nizam, editor of Bengali information every day Bangladesh Pratidin, in a strongly-worded public assertion.

The Editor’s Council, recognized as Shampadak Parishad, additionally was unanimous in labelling the regulation as a menace to press freedom and unbiased media in the nation.

To protest towards the regulation, the council has referred to as all journalists and media our bodies to hitch a human chain on Sept. 29 in Dhaka.

The laws “would violate constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press, and would create extensive legal dangers for journalists in the normal course of carrying out their professional activities,” Steven Butler, the Asia programme coordinator of the Committee to Shield Journalists (CPJ), stated in a press release.

Apparently, the new regulation was initially developed in response to the media’s demand for scrapping Part 57 of the Info and Communication Know-how (ICT) Act, 2006—a broad regulation towards digital communication.

Underneath Part 57, deliberately posting false, provocative, indecent or delicate info on web sites or any digital platforms that was defamatory, and can disrupt the nation’s regulation and order state of affairs, or harm spiritual sentiments, is a punishable offence, with a most penalty of 14 years imprisonment and a wonderful of USD120,000.

It was beneath this part 57 that Shahidul Alam, an award-winning unbiased photographer, was arrested.

Alam was arrested on Aug. 5 from his residence in Dhaka and has been charged with inciting violence by making provocative statements in the media. He has been held with out bail since the arrest, regardless of repeated appeals by the media, human rights teams and the worldwide group for his launch.

IPS contacted a number of native journalists and teachers however everybody declined to remark on the situation of Alam’s arrest. Nevertheless, final month, British MP Tulip Siddiq, and the niece of Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina, referred to as on her aunt to launch Alam saying the state of affairs was “deeply distressing and should end immediately”.

Protestors demanded the unconditional launch of Shahidul Alam, and for fees towards him, and others held in comparable circumstances, to be dropped. Courtesy: Salim Hasbini

Alam’s household organised a protest in New York on Sept. 27 to coincide with prime minister Hasina’s tackle to the United Nations Common Meeting.

The protest was endorsed by human rights teams and journalist associations, rights activist Kerry Kennedy, actress/activist Sharon Stone, and attended by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, amongst others.

At the demonstration, Columbia College professor Gayatri Spivak identified, “What is really important for the state is that if one silences the creative artists and intellectuals, then the conscience of the state is killed because its the role of the creatives artists and intellectuals to make constructive criticism so that the state can be a real democracy.”

Based on Meenakshi Ganguly, Asia director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Bangladesh authorities needs to point out that nobody who dares criticise or problem its actions might be spared.

“Newspaper editors face being charged with criminal defamation and sedition. Journalists and broadcasters are routinely under pressure from the authorities to restrain criticism of the government,” Ganguly stated.

“As a photographer, Alam documents the truth; his work and his voice matter now more than ever,” she stated. 

In Bangladesh, the media has been demanding the scrapping of Part 57, explains Afroja Shoma, an assistant professor of Media and Mass Communication at American Worldwide College of Bangladesh.

“However, the Digital Security Act left this untouched and so this new law is nothing but ‘old wine in a new bottle,’” Shoma advised IPS.

“Section 57, in the past, has been misused several times. The media wanted the government to scrap this. The government then brought this whole new law [the Digital Security Bill 2018]. But it has retained the same old provisions of the section 57. As a result, the law has created an atmosphere of fear among the journalists of the country,” stated Shoma.

Digital safety breeding insecurity

Nevertheless, digital legal guidelines will not be simply threatening press freedom in Bangladesh. A number of nations in south Asia have had comparable punitive legal guidelines handed.

India had its personal “Section 57” recognized as the Part 66A of the Info Know-how Act 2000.

Part 66A in the act made provisions for “punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service” and included info shared by way of a “computer resource or a communication device” recognized to be “false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will.”

In March 2015, the Supreme Courtroom of India struck it down, calling it “open ended, undefined, and vague.”

Nevertheless, of late, India has additionally seen a spate of vicious assaults on journalists. These embrace the homicide of journalists Gauri Lankesh and Shujat Bukhari as nicely as on-line assaults on investigative journalist Rana Ayyub who authored the ebook Gujarat Information. No arrests have been made in any of these instances thus far.

Nepal, a rustic not recognized for assaults on the press, has simply handed a brand new regulation  that makes sharing confidential info an offence ensuing in a jail sentence. The code criminalises recording and listening to conversations between two or extra individuals with out the consent of the individuals concerned, as properly as disclosing personal info with out permission, together with personal info on public figures.

Beneath the regulation, a journalist might face fines of as much as 30,000 rupees (USD270) and imprisonment of as much as three years, based on the CPJ. The CPJ has launched a press release asking the authorities to repeal or amend the regulation.

Badri Sigdel, Nepal’s Nationwide Press Union president, stated in a current press assertion: “The NPU condemns the Act with provisions that restrict journalists to report, write and take photographs. Such restrictions are against the democratic norms and values; and indicate towards authoritarianism. The NPU demands immediate amendment in the unacceptable provisions of the law.”

Pakistan, which ranks 139 in the Press Freedom Index (India ranks 138, whereas Bangladesh and Nepal rank 146 and 106 respectively), has witnessed the killings of 5 journalists whereas working between Might 1, 2017 to Apr. 1, 2018.

Additionally, in line with a research by native media watchdog the Freedom Community there have been:

• 11 instances of tried kidnapping or abduction,

• 39 unlawful detention and arrest,

• 58 bodily assault and vandalism,

• and 23 occurrences of verbal and written threats.

The nation has simply, nevertheless, drafted the Journalists Welfare and Safety Invoice, 2017, which goals to make sure security and safety of journalists. The draft, as soon as adopted, can be the first in the area to offer bodily safety, justice and monetary help for all working journalists—each everlasting and contractual.



(perform()var fbds=doc.createElement(‘script’);fbds.async=true;fbds.src=’//join.fb.internet/en_US/fbds.js’;var s=doc.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0];s.parentNode.insertBefore(fbds,s);_fbq.loaded=true;