Bangladesh: Drop case against Manabzamin editor and 31 others

Responding to a case filed against Manabzamin editor Matiur Rahman Chowdhury and 31 others under the Digital Security Act 2018 for publishing "offensive, false and defamatory news", Amnesty International's South Asia Campaigner, Saad Hammadi, said: 

"We call on the government to maintain restraint on further actions against the Manabzamin editor and 31 others and drop the case filed against them immediately.

The case is a glaring example of how the law is being arbitrarily used against people by influential quarters and state agencies including the police.

We are alarmed by the vague and overly-broad provisions within the Digital Security Act and the rigorous punishment that they entail for the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression.

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Bangladesh must decriminalise defamation and review the legislation so that it is in compliance with international human rights law including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bangladesh is a state party."

Background:
Nearly 400 cases have been filed under the Digital Security Act at the cybercrime tribunal in the first 11 months since the legislation has been passed at the Bangladesh Parliament in October 2018. According to media reports, more than 200 cases have been dismissed for lacking sufficient evidence.


The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on Bangladesh to "urgently revise the Digital Security Act, to ensure that it is in line with international human rights law and that it provides for checks and balances against arbitrary arrest, detention, and other undue restrictions of the rights of individuals to the legitimate exercise of their freedom of expression and opinion".

In November 2018, Amnesty International released a report titled "Muzzling Dissent Online", which outlined sections within the DSA, which are inconsistent with international human rights law and standard, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bangladesh is a state party and called on Bangladesh to promptly amend the law.