Accusing the government of using the Digital Security Act as a weapon to hang onto power, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir on Friday demanded the withdrawal of all the cases filed under the law.
Speaking at a virtual press conference from his Uttara residence, the BNP leader also reiterated their party’s demand for the annulment of the law.
"Around 153 people were harassed by filing cases against them under the Digital Security Act from January to June 2020. If you analyse the allegations of the cases, you’ll see that those were filed for raising voice against ruling party plunderers, expressing political views and criticising the government,” he said.
Fakhrul also alleged that action is being taken against the journalists or those who publish any information about corruption and unscrupulous acts of ruling party men and either in social media or print media.
"The nation's voice is silenced now in fear of facing cases under the Digital Security Act. Since the formation of the act, BNP has been saying this law is unconstitutional and a tool of the government to suppress the voice of people. They made the law to cling to power. We think the law should be revoked immediately and the freedom of expression of free-thinking of people should be ensured,” he observed.
Though journalists and civil society members remain vocal against section 57 of the Digital Security Act, Fakhrul said 94 percent cases have been filed under the ‘controversial’ section 57.
He also said the government is abusing section 57 of the Digital Security Act for violating human rights and snatching the freedom of expression. “Whenever a government becomes authoritarian, autocrat, and fascist, it first attacks the freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press and also controls the social media. That is what this government is doing sincerely in a very planned and conscious manner.”
The BNP leader called upon all to get united to restore democracy and overcome the current situation of the country.
Referring to the statistics of different rights bodies, Fakhrul said a total of 108 cases were filed against 204 people under the act as of June 22 this year.
Of them, 44 are journalists and 160 are other professionals and ordinary people.
Besides, he said, 63 cases were filed under the Digital Security Act in 2019 while 71 ones in 2018. “A comparative analysis shows that a total of 63 cases were registered last year while there had been more than 108 cases filed in the first six months of this year. "But the real picture is more annoying as many such incidents remain unreported."
He said the government and the ruling party leaders are tarnishing the country’s image abroad through their ‘misdeeds’ and violating human rights. "Wouldn't the officials of this government be punished or held accountable for abusing the Digital Security Act, the anti-Liberation War and anti-constitutional activities or for tarnishing the image and reputation of Bangladesh? Can the government avoid the responsibility for these acts in any way?”
Stating that 12 journalists were arrested under the Digital Security Act from January to June 2020, Fakhrul said the Editors’ Council has already voiced concern that the journalists cannot write freely due to the Digital Security Act. “Local and international human rights bodies have long been demanding cancellation of the black law.”
He said warrants for the arrest of many renowned editors have been issued by filing cases against them under the act, forcing them to go to court for bail while some journalists have been arrested.
The BNP leader demanded the government free all those arrested in the cases filed under the digital security law and withdraw of those cases, including that of against Manabzamin Editor-in-chief Matiur Rahman Chowdhury and Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman.
Replying to a question, the BNP secretary general said their party, if returns to power through a fair election, will abolish all the laws that curtail the rights of people, the freedom of speech and freedom of thoughts.
He also said their party will send a letter to the government urging it to annul the Digital Security Act.