August 2023 | Government to replace controversial Digital Security Act
On 8 August, Bangladesh's cabinet announced the replacement of the controversial Digital Security Act (DSA) with the Cyber Security Act (CSA), set for parliamentary introduction in September. The DSA, criticized for stifling free speech and targeting journalists, has led to over 7000 cases filed since 2018. While a positive step, experts warn the new law retains DSA's repressive elements, including vague provisions susceptible to misuse. UN Special Rapporteur Irene Khan observed that the CSA doesn't align with UN recommendations, and Transparency International called for more stakeholder consultation, noting that "the draft CSA is essentially a renamed version of the DSA, with only a few alterations in the form of reduced severity of punishments."
March 2023 | Increasing online media suppression
UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk has expressed concern over the increasing repression of online voices via Bangladesh’s Digital Security Act (DSA). At least 56 journalists faced arrests, harassment, or torture in the last three months of 2023, according to the rights body, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK). The latest case from 29 March involves a reporter from the leading newspaper ‘Prothom’ being detained and denied bail for producing “false news” in an article covering the cost-of-living crisis. Human rights advocates are urging the government to overhaul the DSA and re-investigate those charged under it.
February 2023 | Government shuts down main opposition party’s newspaper
Dainik Dinkal, the newspaper of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), ceased publishing on 20 February, a day after the Press Council (media regulator) upheld a closure order issued by the government on 25 December. The grounds for the order were that a publisher living abroad violates printing and publication laws. However, the publisher cited by the regulator had resigned and been replaced by the current publisher, Shamsur Rahman Shimul Biswas, in 2016 and moved abroad to escape a criminal conviction for money laundering. Biswas’ appealed to the regulator as Dainik Dinkal’s publisher but was rejected. Rights experts consider the move to be a blatant attack on journalistic pluralism, which follows a resurgence in the past two months in attacks against journalists critical of the ruling party.
January 2023 | Steep rise in deadly sea journeys reflect Rohingya's growing desperation
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) recorded an "alarming rise" in Rohingya deaths at sea in 2022, with at least 348 reported missing or dead. Over 3500 Rohingya fled across the Andaman Sea or Bay of Bengal last year, mostly from Myanmar or Bangladesh, up from 700 in 2021. UNHCR has called for a full regional response and investigation into why Rohingya are fleeing. A January Human Rights Watch report further alleges Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are subject to extortion, harassment, and wrongful arrest by police. Myanmar is currently on trial for genocide at the International Court of Justice over the military crackdown in 2017 that saw over a million (mostly Muslim Rohingya) flee to Bangladesh.