Shuddhashar reiterates its deep concern at the prolonged incarceration of Bangladeshi Cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishor, known for his political cartoons, who has been denied bail so far. Kishor was arrested from his home under the Digital Security Act — a draconian law the government regularly exploits to muzzle dissent in Bangladesh. It is noteworthy that, on his Facebook account, Kishor published a series of satirical cartoons to criticise what he deemed a thoroughly corrupt and incompetent government. Moreover, he also published powerful cartoons to denounce the military interference in domestic politics, human rights violations by the notorious Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and other law enforcement agencies, and war criminals. Recently, from cartoons, public statements to social media posts, the Bangladesh government has indiscriminately used the Digital Security Act to censor any content it deems threatening to the authoritarian status quo. Nowadays, whether one can exercise their freedom of speech guaranteed by the constitution, depends solely on the whims of the government.
It has been eight months since Kishor was incarcerated, except that many arrested under similar charges were granted bail. His bail application was refused six times at every step of the judicial branch: from the Lower Court to the Metropolitan Court to the High Court. Meanwhile, Kishor’s health condition has deteriorated: his vision and hearing have worsened, he is also suffering from skin conditions — Kishor requires urgent medical treatment. Shuddhashar firmly believes that criticism of any kind, whether uttered, penned or drawn, is by no means a crime. We also believe that the Digital Security Act should be repealed. In its current form, the law only serves the purpose of the government to clamp down on its critics like Cartoonist Kishor.
We strongly demand the immediate release of Kishor. Furthermore, he should receive the necessary medical care and protection. The Digital Security Act, contrary to the spirit of the Independence War, should be abrogated immediately. We urge International organisations — the likes of Pen International, Committee to Protect Journalists, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch — to launch a unified campaign for the release of Kishor and to uphold his human dignity.