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Journalists under attack in foreign investment-hungry Hasina’s Bangladesh

Is free speech under Sheikh Hasina government under constant threat amid her projection of Bangladesh as an ‘ideal investment destination’?

In launching brutal crackdown, Hasina government seems to have matched the Communist China, where the state enforces draconian law to curb the freedom of speech.

China is the country, where even Muslims are tortured and forced to even follow their religion in accordance with norms laid down by the government.

Bangladesh presents a typical case of a projected ‘secular nation’ with falsified picture of being a ‘democratic country’, but in essence fundamental Islamic values are very much ingrained in its essence.

None seems to be running an agenda against the country, which is allegedly using radical groups to create geopolitical pressure on India, which helped it gain independence in 1971.

Statistics show Hasina government has filed more than 1,000 cases against individuals under the Digital Security Act since it was implemented in 2018.

A Draconian Law

Digital Security Act came into being on October 8, 2018 amid widespread criticism from journalists and human rights activists

Under this law, anyone found guilty of infringing the law, can be handed out prison sentences for up to 14 years.

None journalist is supposed to secretly record government officials or gathers information from a government agency through computer or any other digital device.

Another provision is that the government can hand out punishments for people who spread “negative propaganda” about the country’s 1971 Liberation War and its founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Though there is an ambiguity regarding the execution of the provision in the Muslim-majority nation, where a large number of Internet users continue to spew venom even against those individuals who promote secular ideals.

In a mockery of the law, hordes of ‘wild radicals’ are seen spewing venom in digital space against minorities, who are subject to regular persecution in the country.  Despite all profanities and abuses hurled by Islamists against Hindu students and intellectuals and Hindu gods and goddesses, there is hardly any action taken against ‘Islamist cyber Jihadists, who were frequently found to have been running ‘anti-minorities’ campaign from fake accounts.

Several instances have come to light which showed students using fake IDs and making slanderous comments against Prophet Muhammad to incite violence against Hindus.

Soon after enforcement of the draconian law, there was a wave of protests from eminent journalists and editors, who said they were also concerned over a provision that empowers police to launch crackdown on them.

There were cases of arrests of journalists. Under the law, government agencies can confiscate their equipment without a court order.

The provisions of the law have made the country a graveyard for investigative journalism.

The absence of journalistic freedom has posed another danger: journalists can’t expose corruption in the South Asian country. 

According to Farida Yeasmin, general secretary of the Bangladesh National Press Club, Digital Security Act can be invoked against those who commit cybercrimes, but its provisions can’t be used against media persons.

Barely days ago, a group of radicals attacked over 10 Hindu families in Comilla district.

They targeted Hindu households, vandalised, molested women after Shankar Debnath, principal of a school, allegedly expressed solidarity with France and defended the Charlie Hebdo cartoons in Facebook.

In a video that went quickly viral, a violent, bearded Islamist mob, wearing skull caps with sticks was seen vandalising the houses of Hindu families. The incident has evoked widespread condemnation exposing Hasina government’s ‘collusion’ with radical elements, who have been to prove their numbers through a wave of protests in the heart of capital Dhaka organising anti-France protests.

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