Freedom of expression has never really existed in Bangladesh. Governments as well as religiously, politically, and economically powerful forces have always attacked any opinions and criticisms that conflict with their views and interests. In recent years, a self-destructive attempt to destroy all democratic values and culture has been made by the Bangladesh government. Looting is being carried out in the name of development projects by the state and ruling party. At present, Bangladesh is facing a terrible coronavirus crisis, and this crisis has been made worse by willful acts of the government. Ignoring the advice and warnings of civil society and experts from the very beginning of the spread of the coronavirus, the Bangladesh government stated it is well-prepared to deal with the crisis. But when people started getting infected, a horrible picture of corruption in the health sector emerged. It has become evident that there is no adequate testing system, and there is no proper treatment system in the designated hospitals. Even doctors and health workers do not have adequate safety equipment. It is seen that members of the ruling party are involved in the business of supplying fake and substandard healthcare items in the hospitals. In addition, there are allegations against members of the ruling party of looting relief supplies in emergencies such as lockdowns. All in all, the response to the coronavirus in Bangladesh has been a series of tragic acts of mismanagement.
In this disastrous situation, we are deeply concerned that the government is censoring the publication and dissemination of news related to Covid-19 in Bangladesh. In many cases, arrests are also being made for Facebook status. Photojournalist Shafiqul Islam Kajal suddenly went missing about two months ago after he shared on his Facebook timeline some published information about corruption and misdeeds of members close to the government. Because of Kajal’s posts, a Member of Parliament and an official of the Prime Minister’s Office filed a case against him under the Digital Security Act. The missing photojournalist was found on May 3 in Benapole on the Bangladesh-India border. After making this mysterious discovery, the police arrested him and took him to court with handcuffs on. At the same time, a new case was filed against journalist Kajal for illegally entering his country. When the lawyers applied to the court for bail, the court did not grant bail and sent him to jail.
Meanwhile, on the evening of May 5, Didarul Alam Bhuiyan, an activist of Rashtrachinta, was abducted from his house by some white-clad men in the guise of RAB. He was kept in an unknown place for 24 hours and later handed over to the Ramna Police Station. Political cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore, Minhaj Mannan (brother of LGBT activist, Julhaj Mannan killed by Islamic extremists), and businessman and Facebook contributor Mushtaq Ahmed were also arrested on the same night.
According to the latest news, 11 people have been sued under the Digital Security Act for allegedly creating confusion, instability, and chaos. The accused in the case are cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore, businessman Mostaq Ahmed, information technologist and member of Rashtrachinta, Mohammad Didarul Islam Bhuiyan, Minhaj Mannan (brother of LGBT activist, Julhaj Mannan, killed by fundamentalists), expatriate journalist and Editor of Netranews Tasnim Khalil, Shahed Alam, Sayer Zulkarnain, Ashiq Imran, Philipp Schumacher, Swapan Wahid, and expatriate blogger Asif Mohiuddin.
Observing the facts, it is evident that the present government does not want to give any opportunity to the people of Bangladesh to protest the rampant corruption, mismanagement, and undemocratic behavior of the government.
This is a manifestation of the more fascist behavior of an authoritarian government. Shuddhashar strongly believes that freedom of expression is one of the most fundamental rights of people. The Constitution of Bangladesh did not give right the government to curtail this freedom. Therefore, Shuddhashar expects Kajal, Didar, Kishore and Mushtaq will be released soon, and the case filed against Kajal and the 11 others will be withdrawn. Shuddhashar also expects that the government and all political parties will work in unison with sincere goodwill for the practice of democratic values and culture and the establishment of a society of secularism, economic equality, social justice and free from corruption.