Yet another journalist has been sued under section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act, and this time for sharing a news item on his Facebook page.
With the latest, 24 journalists have been accused under the section since March 1 and most of them had been sued for their reports.
Police arrested Abdul Latif Morol, a reporter of Khulna's Daily Probaho, at his home in Dumuria upazila around 2:30am yesterday, just hours after a defamation case was filed against him.
A Khulna court yesterday sent him to jail.
According to the case filed by Subrata Kumer Fouzder, a reporter of Jessore-based daily Spondon, late Monday night, Latif shared a story run by breakingnews.com.bd headlined “Protimantrir sokale deya chhagol raate mrittu” [goat given by the state minister in the morning dies at night].
In the case, Subrata said State Minister for Fisheries and Livestock Narayon Chandra Chanda on July 29 distributed goats, ducks, and chicken among the beneficiaries of the Flood Control, Drainage and Irrigation (FCDI) project and a goat, received by one Julfikar, died the following day.
Latif, also a contributor to online rights portal Dalit Voice, shared the news on the “irresponsibility of the upazila livestock office” and the death of the goat given by the state minister, Subrata said.
The complainant said Latif intentionally shared the news item that had the minister's file photo to humiliate Narayon and that was why he filed the case against him.
Talking to this correspondent, Subrata claimed that he was not directly involved in any political party but was a supporter of the Awami League. “I have no enmity with the accused,” he said.
Asked why he had filed the case against Latif and not the news portal which ran the story, Subrata just said, “I will consider it later.”
Office-in-Charge Sukumar Biswas of Dumuria Police Station said they arrested Latif after finding evidence against him and that they would continue with their probe.
Mahabaj Reja Mim, daughter of Latif, told The Daily Star that they were horrified when over 50 policemen surrounded their home around midnight to arrest her father.
“My father is a journalist. We requested them [police] not to arrest my father at night as he is not a criminal. Besides, my mother is sick but they did not pay any heed to our request,” she said.
State Minister Narayon said he had heard about the case. “One can file a case from his own point of view. I don't want to say anything about it. But, I want to assure you that I have no involvement in the matter,” he said.
Julfiker, the recipient of the goat, said the animal was very sick when he got it and that he had informed the government officials present at the distribution ceremony about the sick goat.
The officials did not care about his complaint, he added.
“But what is happening now is unacceptable. Some people are trying to take advantage of the issue. It should be stopped,” he said.
Latif's lawyer Motiar Rahman Mollah said the court would hear his client's bail petition today.
Journalists are continuing a movement demanding the repeal of section 57 for its “widespread misuse to muzzle freedom of speech and the press”. They said the section had vague wording, allowing it to be used for silencing newspersons and social media users.
Amid widespread criticism, Law Minister Anisul Huq on several occasions said section 57 would be removed. The minister on July 9 said the government would decide on the matter while finalising the draft of “Digital Security Act” this month.
But cases filed under the section are piling on. According to a source at the Cyber Tribunal in Dhaka, around 700 cases have so far been filed under section 57 since 2013 when the act was amended with stringent punishment.