With Nod to Draft Broadcast Law, Bangladesh Furthers Attempts to Curb Free Speech


Dhaka: Bangladesh’s cupboard on Monday authorized a regulation that would allow the government to ship a person to prison for giving “misleading and fake” statistics in a communication show.

According to cabinet secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam, the draft of the Broadcast Law 2018 became accepted in principle “to discipline” the broadcast media.

The law has made 24 varieties of works punishable, airing fake statistics, fabricated statistics concerning the Liberation War, and rumors in broadcast and online media.

Anyone violating the law could be sentenced to a maximum of 7 years’ imprisonment or fined up to Taka five crore or both. If everyone continues to broadcast or post fabricated reviews or information even after being disqualified through the court docket, they might be liable to pay Taka 1 lakh in best according to today.

The new broadcast law has come at the heels of the good deal-criticized digital safety regulation, which become put into effect on October 8 with u . S .’s president, Abdul Hamid, signing the invoice.

In step with media activists, these laws have squeezed down the distance for exercising freedom of expression within the country.

Scope of abuse

Veteran journalist Afsan Chowdhury, who regularly participates in communication, suggests, instructed The Wire that there are certain elements and provisions of the regulation which “people like him” are not secure with.

He stated the law talks approximately taking punitive measures towards “fake and misleading records” in communicating suggests – the “misleading” bit is what Chowdhury reveals complicated.

“My query is, who will determine what’s ‘misleading’? It is a completely indistinct time period and has the scope of being interpreted in many methods – on occasion to someone’s benefit, be it political or personal.”

Journalists maintain banners and placards as they protest towards the newly passed Digital Security Act in front of the Press Club in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on October eleven, 2018. Credit: Reuters/Mohammad Monir Hossain

“I am skeptical,” Chowdhury introduced, “Because there are many examples of abusing components of legal guidelines for non-public or political advantage in Bangladesh.”

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Giving the example of Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act, Chowdhury said, many have abused that precise provision of the Act for their personal benefit.

“There should have been some filtering in permitting someone to record a case. But unfortunately, in Bangladesh, I don’t see that practice in the judiciary,” he said.

A talk display participant who favored staying unnamed told The Wire that high-time and past due night communication indicate play a big element in shaping mass evaluations. “Such provisions of giving punishments for announcing something in talk indicates will create a chilling effect. People will exercise self-censorship.”

Also read: Bangladesh Enacts Digital Security Law in Its Latest Assault on Free Speech.

Journalist Khaled Mohiuddin, the host of one of the maximum famous speak, suggests that in Bangladesh, people must not receive the liberty to “communicate something they prefer” in-speak shows.

“It’s stay TV, and there has to be some unwritten code while you communicate. After website hosting many indicates, I can inform that at times the contributors cross the restriction of decency,” he said.

The Zafrullah incident

Days earlier than the draft of the Broadcast Law was authorized with the aid of the cabinet, Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury, an internationally-acclaimed health practitioner who founded Gonoshasthaya Kendra in Bangladesh, apologized to the united states of America’s army chief General Aziz Ahmed for giving fake statistics about him in a speak display.

Zafrullah, a close ally of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, took a show on the nighttime after a tribunal delivered the verdict within the August 21 grenade assault case remaining Wednesday.

He claimed that General Aziz changed into “court-martialed after fingers and ammunition have been stolen from Chattogram when the army chief was the general officer commanding there.”

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A day after, the military headquarters issued a rejoinder, stating, “The unfaithful and irresponsible remark with the aid of a renowned individual like Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury concerning a serving army chief seems to be absolutely stimulated to belittle a national organization like the army earlier than the people.”

The army announcement said, “No incident of robbery or going lacking took place in Chattogram at some stage in that length. It is mainly mentionable that leader of a military team of workers Aziz Ahmed did never face any courtroom-martial at some stage in his lengthy colorful military profession.”

Later, a general diary became filed on Thursday towards Dr. Zafrullah for making “fake, fabricated, stimulated and treasonous” comments towards the navy chief in a television speak display. Detective Branch of police was given the mission of engaging in an investigation into treason costs towards him.

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of US-based Human Rights Watch, informed The Wire that any regulation depends on how the nation chooses to force it.

“In Bangladesh, we have seen an overt try and scale down loose speech and dissent, prosecute people for a complaint of the government or ruling Awami League leaders.”

She said that an energetic civil society plays a key role in defensive rights. “A government that desires to fulfill its responsibilities must welcome numerous reviews, no longer throw humans in jail.”

Faisal Mahmud is a Dhaka-based totally journalist.