A journalist from a leading newspaper in Bangladesh was charged on Wednesday (March 29) for producing false news after a story on high food prices went viral. According to a report by the news agency AFP, the journalist Shamsuzzaman Shams has been charged under the draconian Digital Security Act. Shams’s newspaper Prothom Alo said that he was picked up from his residence in Savar town at around 4:00 am (2200 GMT) by the police.
Citing a copy of the case file, AFP reported that Shams was charged with smearing the image of the government with false news, and for raising questions about the achievements of Bangladesh.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan confirmed that Shams was questioned by the police for a false story published during the weekend. Khan said a case has been filed against him, adding he would be released from custody but could be arrested again over the charges.
The story in Prothom Alo was published last Sunday (March 26) and included quotes from ordinary people talking about their lives on the occasion of Bangladesh’s Independence Day.
“What is the use of this freedom if we can’t afford rice,” one labourer was quoted as saying.
AFP reported on Wednesday that food prices have soared in Bangladesh since the middle of 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The currency taka has fallen sharply against the US dollar.
280 journalists charged under Digital Security Act: Think tank
A local think tank said that nearly 3,000 people, including 280 journalists, have been charged under the Digital Security Act since it was enacted in 2018. This data has stoked concerns under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh is becoming increasingly authoritarian, the news agency further reported.
Reporters Without Borders in its 2022 World Press Freedom Index, ranked Bangladesh 162 among 180 countries. In recent months, the dwindling number of independent journalists in Bangladesh has come under increasing attacks by the government. In February, authorities shut down the lone opposition mouthpiece by saying it violated the country’s press laws.
At least 10 journalists were beaten up by police while covering a disputed election of Supreme Court lawyers in Dhaka.
(With inputs from agencies)
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