Editor and publisher of the country’s leading newspaper Prothom Alo has been sued alongside other staff members under the Digital Security Act.
An FIR of the case was filed yesterday at Ramna Police Station by a lawyer named Abdul Malek (Mashiur Malek), accusing the paper’s editor and publisher Matiur Rahman, reporter Shamsuzzaman Shams, an unnamed “assistant cameraman”, and unnamed others of “using print, online, and electronic media to tarnish the image and reputation of the state”.
In the FIR, the lawyer also mentioned that the accused were “purposefully spreading misinformation to deteriorate law and order situation of the country.”
The case was filed under sections 25, 31 and 35 of the DSA.
According to the case statement, the plaintiff read news on the website of the Prothom Alo while he was browsing internet in front of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy area at around 9 pm on Sunday (March 26).
The report was published with a photo of a child holding flowers in front of the National Martyrs’ Memorial at Savar, said the case statement.
The report said that the boy’s name is Jakir Hossain and quoted him as saying: “What will I do with the independence if I don’t have rice to eat? I sweat when I go to market; we need freedom of fish, meat and rice.”
Though the boy was mentioned as Jakir Hossain by Prothom Alo, private television channel Ekattor TV in an investigation found that the boy’s real name is Sabuj Ahmed and he is a class three student, it said.
The Ekattor TV report said that the boy did not say anything to the Prothom Alo reporter and the latter “took Sabuj’s photo after giving him Tk 10”.
The plaintiff said the news reported by Shamsuzzaman went viral on social media which “tarnished the image of the country and triggered criticism at home and abroad.”
Moreover, there was a possibility of deterioration in the law and order situation in the country over the matter, the case statement said.
Meanwhile, a legal notice was also sent to the Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman and three others over the published content.
Mithun Biswas, a lawyer from Chattogram sent the notice to Prothom Alo office on Wednesday, demanding an unconditional apology to the nation within seven days.
On March 26, Prothom Alo published a ‘card’ with a photograph and a quotation of a day labourer Zakir Hossain for sharing a news report on Facebook. However, the national daily later removed the post from online due to a discrepancy regarding the photo that was used with the news.
Later, the report was republished with necessary amendments and a note below the report regarding the correction.
Later, Shamsuzzaman Shams, the paper’s Savar correspondent who wrote the report was sued in a separate case under the DSA on Wednesday afternoon, around 10 hours after being picked up from his house near Jahangirnagar University by members of the Criminal Investigation Department of police.
He was produced before the Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court today.
A Jubo League leader filed a case under the Digital Security Act against Shamsuzzaman Shams, accusing him of publishing a “false and fabricated report” in the daily Prothom Alo.
Meanwhile, ministers and leaders of the ruling Awami League have slammed the photo and caption published by Prothom Alo on March 26.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said: “The investigation of aggrieved journalists revealed that the report of a Prothom Alo journalist was false, fabricated, and made with malicious intent.”
“I will inform you of the details after knowing all,” the minister added.
Multiple national and international bodies including Editors’ Council, Editors’ Guild of Bangladesh, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Manabadhikar Shongskriti Foundation (MSF) and the Media Freedom Coalition (MFC) have published separate statements condemning the arrest of Shamsuzzaman Shams.
The Editors’ Guild of Bangladesh, an association formed to protect the editorial freedom, has expressed grave concern over the incident.
Meanwhile, CPJ called on the authorities for immediate and unconditional release of journalist Shamsuzzaman Shams.
Protests were held at Dhaka University by left leaning student organizations demanding the release of the Prothom Alo reporter.
The Media Freedom Coalition – a cross-regional partnership of countries working together to advocate for media freedom – today published a statement condemning all sorts of “violence against and intimidation of journalist”.