Section 57 of ICT Act: Man held over Facebook post

He faces charges of hurting religious sentiment, denies making the post
File photo

Another man was arrested under controversial section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act over an alleged Facebook post.

Vishnu Malo, the owner of a computer and mobile servicing shop at Hatkrishnapur Bazar in Faridpur's Sadarpur upazila, was held on Thursday noon after an angry mob vandalised his home and shop, centring the alleged post “hurting religious sentiments”.

Vishnu denied making the post, police say. 

Around 11:00pm on Thursday, a local businessman, Israt Munshi, filed the case against the 22-year-old with Sadarpur Police Station.

Showing the youth arrested, police yesterday produced him before a district court which sent him to jail.

"Israt filed the case against Vishnu under section 57 for posting a manipulated photo on his Facebook account, hurting religious sentiments," Harun-ar-Rashid, office-in-charge (OC) of the police station, told our Faridpur correspondent.

He also said they first arrested Vishnu to "avoid any more unwanted incident" following the vandalism and imposed section 144 in the area.

Later, he was charged under section 57 of the ICT Act.

Contacted, Gazi Rabiul Islam, additional superintendent of police in Faridpur, told this newspaper that the case was registered after they consulted the police headquarters and took permission in this regard.

He said Vishnu told him that he was not the owner of the “Bishno Kumar Malo” Facebook account which uploaded the post and he [Vishnu] used an account named “Rahulvishnu”.

Earlier, police arrested a journalist in Kurigram under the same section following a case filed against him for allegedly taking a “screenshot” of a Facebook post involving the president and the prime minister, and for showing it to the plaintiff and some other local people.

The arrestee was Anisur Rahman, 33, a correspondent of the Daily Sangbad in the district.

Journalists have long been demanding repeal of the provision amid its widespread misuse for curbing freedom of speech. They say the section is so vaguely worded that it can be misused to silence journalists and social media users.

Law Minister Anisul Huq on several occasions said the section would be repealed. However, cases under the section have been piling up, and around two dozen journalists have already been sued under the act since March.

Against this backdrop, Inspector General of Police AKM Shahidul Hoque in August instructed all police stations to consult the legal wing of the police headquarters before registering any case under the act.

Under the ICT Act, police submit either a charge sheet or a final report after investigating alleged violations to the Cyber Tribunal in Dhaka, the lone tribunal to deal with such cases.

According to a source at the tribunal, the court received 763 reports until July 30 this year from police since the amendment of the law in 2013 with provisions for harsher punishments. Nearly 90 percent of the cases were filed under section 57 and a majority of them by ruling party men.

The actual number of cases is much higher as the police file reports with the court only after completing their investigations into the accusations.

Of the 763 cases, 205 have so far been disposed of.

In the first seven months of this year alone, the tribunal received 342 reports. Of them, 300 were filed under section 57.