In a collective plea for press freedom and human rights, 19 international organisations have urged the administration of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to halt cases initiated under the Digital Security Act (DSA) against journalist Adhora Yeasmean.
This urgent appeal follows an investigation into Yeasmean's video report for a private TV channel RTV on alleged activities of the religious organization Rajarbagh Darbar Sharif, which led to accusations against her under the DSA.
The coalition of organizations has also expressed alarm over reports of harassment targeted at Yeasmean by members of Rajarbagh Darbar Sharif. They allege that since mid-July, she has been subjected to unauthorized surveillance, threats, and intimidation. These actions are believed to be retaliatory against her investigative journalism. The coalition insists that authorities swiftly investigate these threats, hold the culprits accountable, and ensure the journalist's safety and psychological well-being.
The coalition also calls for Bangladesh to terminate the DSA investigation into Akramul Ahsan Kanchan, a co-accused in Yeasmean's report. Kanchan claimed that Shakerul Kabir, the leader of Rajarbagh Darbar Sharif, acquired local properties deceptively. The coalition views this legal backlash against journalistic sources as a threat to press freedom.
Bangladeshi Journalists in International Media (BJIM), a platform of Bangladeshi journalists covering the country for various global media outlets, also endorsed the letter and urged authorities to drop any investigation into Adhora Yeasmin.
“Press freedom is vital for a thriving democracy, allowing voices to be heard and truths to be revealed,” stated BJIM spokesperson Redwan Ahmed. “We urge Bangladeshi authorities to cease using the criminal justice system to harass or intimidate journalists and to drop charges against Adhora Yeasmin for her journalistic work.”
Amid the January 2024 election, the groups stress free journalism without fear, noting the DSA's repeal but cautioning against the new Cyber Security Act's threats to expression. The coalition also calls for involving stakeholders to shape rights-respecting legislation, underscoring the need to drop charges against expression and release detainees under the DSA.
Organisations who have signed the letter are Amnesty International, ARTICLE 19 South Asia, Asian Human Rights Commission, Bangladeshi Journalists in International Media, Capital Punishment Justice Project, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ), Committee to Protect Journalists, Forum for Freedom of Expression, Bangladesh, Free Press Unlimited, IFEX, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), International Women’s Media Foundation, PEN America, PEN Bangladesh, PEN International, Reporters Without Borders, and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.