Press freedom violations worrying | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 05, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:57 AM, June 05, 2020

Press freedom violations worrying

5 bodies criticise actions against journos in letter to Hasina

The heads of five international and domestic organisations published an open letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, decrying her government's "repression of the freedom of press".

The letter was signed by the chiefs of Reporters without Borders (RSF), Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI), Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), Forum for Freedom of Expression, Bangladesh (FExB), a collective of organisations advocating freedom of expression, and Cartooning for Peace (CFP), an international network founded by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

"Your country has fallen five places in the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF)," the letter began, "and, given the disturbing number of press freedom violations in recent weeks, we fear that your country could fall even further next year."

The letter criticised the arrest of cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore. It said, "His only act of 'terrorism' was to have published a series of cartoons of politicians entitled 'Life in the Time of Corona.' He is still detained and is facing a possible life sentence."

The statement noted that there has been a rise in prosecution of journalists under the Digital Security Act, and that "most of the journalists being prosecuted under this law simply reported information that annoyed local politicians."

"Since the start of the lockdown in your country, at least 13 journalists have also been the targets of violence, which in some cases caused serious injuries," it added, stating that a majority of them were "subjected to outburst of similar violence for investigating cases of corruption among district officials responsible for distributing humanitarian supplies."

The letter also urged the PM to make sure that the physical attacks against reporters do not go unpunished.

"Reform your press freedom legislation so that it complies with the undertakings your government has given to international bodies including the UN Human Rights Council on 14 May 2018. To this end, you should amend the Digital Security Act and draft a law on protecting journalists," the statement said.

The letter was signed by Terry Anderson, executive director of CRNI, Christophe Deloire, secretary-general of RSF, Dr Syeda Aireen Jaman, chairwoman of FExB, Zahirul Islam Khan, chairman of ASK and Patrick Lamassoure, president of CFP.


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