Five Bangladeshi and international organisations have written to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asking her to take action guaranteeing press freedom amid an alarming surge in physical and judicial attacks on reporters and cartoonists in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, a media report said on Friday.
The organisations are — Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Forum for Freedom of Expression, Bangladesh (FExB), Ain O Shalish Kendra (ASK) and Cartooning For Peace (CFP), said the bdnews24 report.
The letter was published on the Reporters Without Borders website on Wednesday.
Though the Bangladesh government claims to “firmly believe in freedom of the press”, it is being violated, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, the letter said.
“During the month of May alone, at least 16 journalists and bloggers were charged under the 2018 Digital Security Act.
“They include the cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore, who was arrested on 6 May by the Rapid Action Battalion… His only act of “terrorism” was to have published a series of cartoons of politicians entitled ‘Life in the Time of Corona’.
“He is still detained and is facing a possible life sentence,” said the letter.
It further said that “most of the other journalists being prosecuted under this law”.
The letter also mentioned that since the start of the lockdown in the country, at least 13 journalists have been the targets of violence, which in some cases caused serious injuries.
Under the present circumstances, the organisations urged Hasina to ensure that physical attacks against reporters do not go unpunished, abusive prosecutions of journalists, bloggers and cartoonists under the Digital Security Act.
They also urged to amend the Digital Security Act while drafting a law on protecting journalists.