Controversial digital law said to limit press freedom in Bangladesh

A senior Bangladeshi journalist has been fighting for justice for more than two years in a case brought by the government under the country's controversial Digital Security Act (DSA).

Rashidul Islam is one of dozens of journalists charged under the act, which was passed by the government in October 2018, just two months before the country's general elections.

Human rights defenders and experts say the law has vague provisions. One of the clauses of the law on “Digital or Electronic Fraud” says: “If any person commits fraud by means of any digital or electronic medium then that activity of that particular person will be an offense under the Act.”

Islam was charged formally in connection with a story about election results from the southeastern district of Khulna in the 2018 elections. He said his story was based on the administrative head of the district's declaration, but that was not enough to satisfy the government.

In one constituency, there were 22,419 more votes cast than the total number of eligible voters, indicating an overall irregularity and ballot staffing, he said, adding: "I have a recording of the result announcement.”

He added that the results were changed in the government's written sheets the next morning.

Despite the fact that he wrote another updated news report, Islam told Anadolu Agency that the "district administration filed a case against me and another journalist on the charge of making false, fabricated, and provocative information."

“Police arrested my colleague Hedait Hossain Mollah, and I went into hiding for 22 days before securing court bail,” he said, adding: “It was the most suffocating period of my life.”

"It's a black law," Mohammad Abdullah, president of a local journalists' union, told Anadolu Agency, asking for the release of journalists charged under the act, comparing its provisions to “asking a swimmer to swim after his hands and legs have been tied.”

Abdullah said that the government is repeatedly misusing such provisions of the law just to harass journalists and critics.