More than 100 journalists have been sued under the DSA between January 2019 and May 2021, and at least 39 of them were arrested. The DSA, enacted in 2018, has vague provisions criminalising legitimate forms of expression. More than 1000 people have been arrested under the law since and have been subjected to a wide range of human rights violation including enforced disappearance, detention and torture simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression. In February 2021, a writer has died in prison after languishing there for 10 months without trial solely for criticising the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression and on the situation of human rights defenders have noted that the sections in the act are vague in defining categories of speech and gives the Bangladeshi government broad discretion to unduly penalize individuals for holding or sharing personal opinions.
Under this law, defamation is criminalized, allowing life imprisonment in some instances such as criticising the country’s founding president or “spirit or liberation war”. Law enforcement agencies have been using the DSA to penalize people simply for social media posts that are critical of the government or public officials.
This has created a chilling effect on people legitimately exercising their right to freedom of expression.
Take action now. Send an email and demand that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina repeals or amends the Digital Security Act in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and ends the repression of people solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression.