Her silence a yell for justice
Karimon Nesa, mother of Prothom Alo reporter Samsuzzaman Shams, came all the way to Dhamrai from her Manikganj home to attend a human chain demanding the release of her son and scrapping of the controversial Digital Security Act.
But she could not utter a single word. She stood there shedding tears in silence.
Shams's cousin Faruk Hossain, said, "The honesty of Shams' family is known to people in their village. People in this family made supreme sacrifices for the country."
Karimon's son Rabiul Karim, who was an assistant commissioner of police, was killed in the Holey Artisan attack in 2016.
The human chain was organised by Dhamrai Reporters' Club and Dhamrai Upazila Press Club in the Dautia area by Dhaka-Aricha highway.
Umme Salma, widow of Rabiul, told The Daily Star that Karimon almost stopped eating after Shams was picked up from his home on Wednesday. "She cries all the time. Shams is all she has."
Demonstrations by journalists, political parties, and cultural and social organisations continued in different parts of the country demanding release of Shams and abolition of the Digital Security Act (DSA).
While posting on social media a report written by Shams on March 26, the Independence Day, Prothom Alo made a "card" with a quote of a labourer named Zakir Hossain. Though the card contained Zakir's quote, it had the photo of an adolescent boy taken from behind.
The mistake was noticed within 17 minutes, and the card was removed. Besides, corrections were made to the report and the news was again published online mentioning the corrections.
Around 4:00am on March 29, Shams was picked up by law enforcers in plainclothes, hours after he was sued under the DSA.
Apart from Shams, Prothom Alo Editor and Publisher Matiur Rahman, an unnamed photographer, and unnamed others were accused later in another case filed under the DSA.
In a statement yesterday, Bangladesh Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad urged the government to suspend the application of the DSA, saying that the act was being used to harass the minority communities.
Former students of Jahangirnagar University (JU) yesterday demonstrated in front of Bangladesh National Museum in the capital's Shahbagh, demanding that the DSA be scrapped immediately.
Kallol Banik, a JU alumni, said Shams reported on the struggle of low-income people amid the rising prices of daily commodities.
"Shams acted responsibly. He was sent to jail for performing his duties as a journalist. Today, we are here to thank him [for the report]."
Demanding the abolition of the DSA, another JU alumni named Nasir Uddin Prince said suppression of freedom of expression, media, and dissent is a threat to democracy.
Friends of Shams, also a JU alumni, said they would launch a tough movement if Shams was not released soon.
Activists of Narayanganj Sangiskritik Jote demonstrated in the morning in front of Narayanganj Press Club.
Rafiur Rabbi, adviser to the organisation, said the DSA is contradictory to the constitution.
"The entire process of Shams' arrest and imprisonment is unlawful," he added.
At a rally in front of the Jatiya Press Club, Zonayed Saki, chief coordinator of Ganosamhati Andolon, said low-income people are being hit hard by the soaring prices of daily essentials. Corrupt people, money launderers and bank robbers are responsible for this. Instead of taking measures against them, the government wants to suppress the voice of the people.
Since the people's sufferings are reported in the media, the government is afraid of possible public anger, he said, adding that the DSA was being used as a tool of repression.
Dhaka University's panel of pro-BNP-Jamaat teachers expressed deep concern over the filing of a case against the Prothom Alo editor and the arrest of Shams.
In a statement, signed by Prof Md Lutfar Rahman, the White Panel teachers demanded abolition of the DSA, saying that the government does not believe in freedom of the press.
Activists of Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal, members of Prothom Alo Bondhushava, and local journalists formed a human chain in front of Dinajpur Press Club with their faces covered in black cloth.
The filing of cases against the Prothom Alo journalists is politically motivated, said the speakers.
Demonstrations also took place in Patuakhali, Bauphal, Sarishabari, Nilphamari and Tangail.
Shams was moved back to Dhaka Central Jail in Keraniganj from Kashimpur Central Jail-1 yesterday.