Sampadak Parishad (Editors' Council) has expressed grave concern over the recent suing of a cartoonist, a writer and journalists and the subsequent arrests of several of them under the Digital Security Act (DSA) on unsubstantiated grounds.
No concern is being shown over the merit of the complaints before making arrests, according to a statement from the Parishad issued by its President Mahfuz Anam and Secretary General Naem Nizam on its behalf.
The council also lamented how reasons such as "tarnishing image", "spreading rumour" or "criticising the government" appear sufficient to put journalists behind bars.
"Any complaint under DSA almost automatically leads to arrests. Recently photojournalist Kajol was handcuffed while being produced in court. Simple criticism of lawmakers, district administrations and people in power are behind most of the recent cases," read the statement issued by the Editor's Council.
The council also praised lawmakers who have traditionally stood for free media and freedom of thought.
"Regrettably a few of them are now a part of the current DSA-led onslaught against the media. Clear preference of filing cases under DSA instead of existing defamation laws indicates a desire to intimidate and harass journalists rather than seek justice,'' the statement added.
The council believes it is the inherent duty of media to expose corruption and irregularities and point out the failures of the administration and it is all the more necessary when thousands of crores of taka are being spent by the government to fight the pandemic.
Sampadak Parishad had opposed the DSA from the very start, fearing that it will be used as a weapon to suppress freedom of the media.
"Our fear is now a nightmare-reality for mass media," the letter adds.
The council considers the recent suing and arrest of journalists as a clear threat to freedom of press and freedom of expression and they demanded immediate release of all journalists and withdrawal of all cases against them.
They also condemned the frequent and indiscriminate use of DSA against media and common citizens and demanded the act be repealed.