Bangladesh: Journalist Arrested Over Report on Rising Food Prices

    Bangladesh: Journalist Arrested Over Report on Rising Food Prices
    Last updated Mar 30, 2023
    Image credit: AFP/Getty Images [via The Guardian]


    • Bangladesh police on Wednesday detained the journalist Samsuzzaman Shams — employee at the leading local newspaper Prothom Alo — over allegations he promoted "false news" that violated the controversial Digital Security Act (DSA).[1]
    • This comes as his article about rising food prices — which included testimony from ordinary people about their daily experiences and challenges — went viral after it was published last Sunday on the occasion of the country's independence day.[2]
    • Shams has been charged with violating five sections of the DSA, including publishing or transmitting defamatory information and content that deteriorates law and order. If found guilty, he could serve a jail term of at least three years.[3]
    • Claiming Prothom Alo's report was "baseless, false, and motivated," Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal argued that Shams was arrested because an aggrieved person had filed a case with police over the publication.[4]
    • The case was filed on Wednesday at Dhaka's Tejgon police station by 36-year-old Syed Md Golam Kirbria — the serving general secretary of Jubo League’s Dhaka City North ward 11 unit who has also formerly served as part of the central committee of Bangladesh Chhattra League. A second case was filed on Thursday by lawyer Abdul Malek against Shams, editor Matiur Rahman, an assistant cameraman, and others who were not identified.[5]
    • The Center for Governance Studies reports that, from January 2019 to August 2022, 138 cases were filed against journalists under the DSA, accusing 208 people of breaking the law and leading to the arrest of 84. Those found guilty of breaking DSA guidelines can face prison sentences of up to 14 years.[6]


    Narrative A

    The DSA has become a major threat to freedom of the press in Bangladesh, especially in the run-up to the next elections, as it has expanded the government's powers over independent journalists and intentionally created loopholes for its misapplications. Shams is just the latest to be detained under this law but, unless the nation protests together to abolish, or at the very least rectify the act, he will not be the last.

    Narrative B

    Those claiming that the DSA has been created to curb freedom of the press are completely misrepresenting the legislation. The DSA imposes laws necessary to ensure that law enforcement agencies can stay ahead of criminal activity and irresponsible publishing, as evident in the arrest of Shams for spreading false and threatening information.

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