People from different sections of society across the country have taken to the streets demanding the withdrawal of the case filed against Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman and journalist Samsuzzaman Shams. They also sought unconditional release of Shams and annulment of the Digital Security Act. They held in human chains, protest rallies and press briefings on Saturday.
“Culture of fear prevails in the country’
At a press briefing in Rajshahi, some eminent citizens said DSA has been used as the biggest tool of oppressing journalists.
In a written statement, Heritage Rajshahi’s president Mahbub Siddique said, “We express grave concern over the harassment of an eminent personality like Prothom Alo editor and picking up of the daily’s staff correspondent Samsuzzaman Shams at night.”
“We’ve observed the unrestrained use of Digital Security Act to stifle dissent and criticism against the government. This has spawned to a culture of fear in the country. Many journalists have switched profession and many left the country. There is no investigative journalism in the country. Although corruption and looting are rampant in various sectors, publishing news on the issue has become increasingly tougher,” said the written statement.
He demanded immediate scrapping of the DSA for sake of freedom of speech and independent journalism.
Rajshahi University’s teacher Iftikharul Alam, lawyer Hasnat Beg, Bir Muktijuddha Mahbub Jamal Qaderi, among others, were present at the press briefing.
“People must be allowed to speak”
Prothom Alo Bondhusava organised a human chain at Saheb Bazar Zero Point area on Saturday afternoon. Nine organisations and professors of university expressed solidarity with the event.
Rajshahi Bondhusava’s president Sabbir Khan presided over the human chain and vice president Md Jahidul Islam conducted the event.
Professor of Rajshahi University’s Arabic department Iftikharul Alam, economics department professor Md Farid Uddin Khan, Rajshahi Rokkha Sangram Parishad’s secretary Md Jamat Khan, Heritage Rajshahi’s president Mahbub Siddique, Rashtra Sangskar Andolon’s member Bir Muktijuddha Mahbub Jamal Qaderi, Rajshahi Poribesh Andolon Oikya Parishad’s convener Mahbub Tunku, member secretary Nazmul Hossain, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon Rajshahi’s treasurer KM Jobayer, RU Press Club president Kamrul Hasan, RU Journalist Association’s secretary Abdus Sabur, among others, spoke at the event.
RU teacher Iftikharul Alam said, the report in question brought out the sufferings of a working class person. Shamsuzzaman has been picked up at night for doing this report. Now Prothom Alo editor is also being harassed through Digital Security Act. The case has to be withdrawn, the DSA repealed and allow the people to speak.
Rajshahi Rakkha Sangram Parishad general secretary Md Jamat Khan said the Digital Security Act is being used as a tool for harassment.
Md Farid Uddin, professor of the economics department, at Rajshahi University, said Prothom Alo is marching ahead with courage and truth and the newspaper has always stood by the oppressed. A journalist reported on huger, but the state picked him up in the dead of night, which is extremely unjust.
Rajshahi Poribesh Andolon Oikya Parishad convener Mahbub Tunku said there is a Press Council and anyone being aggrieved over a report can go there. So, why journalist Samsuzzam would go to prison under the Digital Security Act, he asked adding that the government must release him and repeal this act.
Freedom fighter Mahmud Zaman Kaderi said they have fought for the freedom that includes freedom of speech and freedom of expression, so, don’t squeeze this freedom.
Rajshahi Itihas Parishad member secretary Shafiqul Islam and Rajshahi Muktijoddha Mancha member freedom fighter Bazlur Rahman were present at the event expressing solidarity.
Prothom Alo’s staff correspondent in Rajshahi Abul Kalam Muhammad Azad, correspondent Shafiqul Islam, Bondhushava Rajshahi chapter general secretary Lutfar Rahman, organising secretary Parwar Hossain and other members of other Bondhushava chapters in Rajshahi were present.
‘Democracy is hampered, if the pen is controlled’
A human chain and protest rally organised by the Bondhushava Keshabpur chapter was held at the Trimohoni intersection in Keshabpur town in the afternoon with Bondhushava Keshabpur president SM Shariful Islam in the chair.
Keshabpur Nagorik Samaj convener Abu Bakkar Siddiquee, Khelaghar Asar upazila president Abdul Majid, former president of press club Azizur Rahman, general secretary Jaydev Chakraborty, Begumpur Secondary School principal Swapan Mondal, journalist Wazed Khan, Matiar Rahman and Prothom Alo correspondent Dilip Modak addressed the event, expressing solidarity.
Abu Bakkar Siddiquee said if the pen is controlled democracy is hampered, so, it is very unjust to file cases against journalists including Prothom Alo Editor under the Digital Security Act and arrest the reporter.
Abdul Majid said the democracy of the country is being destroyed by filing cases against journalists and arresting them, so, everyone must take to the streets for protest. Besides, the draconian Digital Security Act must be scrapped, he demanded.
The Bam Ganotantrik Jote, Moulvibazar chapter, organised a protest rally on the Choumuhano premises in Moulvibazar town with Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) Moulvibazar chapter committee member Mokbul Hossain in the chair.
Speakers demanded the repeal of the Digital Security Act, an end to extrajudicial killings and the immediate release of Prothom Alo staff correspondent Samsuzzaman.
Moderated by CPB district committee acting general secretary Jaharlal Dutt, Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal (BASD) Moulvibazar chapter coordinator Moinur Rahman, Samajtantrik Chhatra Front Moulvibazar district committee president Biswajit Nandi, Bangladesh Chhttra Union Moulvibazar district sangsad president Tapan Debnath spoke at the event.
Govt wants to suppress the media
Speakers at a demonstration, organised in protest of the arrest of Prothom Alo staff correspondent Samsuzzaman in the capital’s Shahbagh on Saturday, termed the Digital Security Act a draconian law and demanded for the release of the journalist.
Rights activists and former student leaders, under the banner of “Nipironer Biruddhe Shahbagh’ (Shahbagh against suppression) addressed the demonstration demanding the immediate release of journalist Samsuzzaman and the repeal of the Digital Security Act.
Sharifuzzaman, the former president of Bangladesh Chhatra Union said the news media in the country is not going well at the moment. The country is being governed by some specific set of rules set by the ruling party defying the constitution of the country. The government wants to suppress the free media. Whenever the government gets a chance, they try to deter Prothom Alo anyhow.
Demanding the repeal of the Digital Security Act, Sharifuzzaman said there is no difference between the people who want to suppress dissent and those who pick up people at night.
He further said, “Prothom Alo journalist Samsuzzaman must get bail. At the same time all the persons imprisoned under this law should be released as well. We demand the government to stop acting against the freedom of press.”
Bangladesh Jubo Union general secretary Jahangir Alam said, “We had warned during the legislation of the DSA that it would be misused. Now it’s reality. Now the ruling party leaders and activists can sue anybody at whim using this law.”
Addressing the demonstration lawyer Jibananda Jayanta said the law, which traps people, can never be for any good to us. Such a law cannot exist in any civilised country. A law, which drew criticism internationally, cannot do any good to us. Rule of law cannot be established without laws for the betterment of the common people. Therefore, the DSA should be repealed.”
‘We’re all culpable in the same crime’
Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal (BASAD) arranged a protest rally in front of Ashwinikumar Hall in Barishal on Saturday. People from different walks of life also joined the rally organized by BASAD Barishal district unit.
Presiding over the rally, BASAD district unit’s member secretary Manisha Chakrabarti said, “If seeking independence to get fish-meat-rice is crime, then we all are culpable in the same crime. Arrest 160 million people for this crime.”
Manisha said prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed due to unbridled corruption of the ruling party.
“Their image did not get tarnished when the economy of the country was destroyed by looting and money laundering, when Jesmin Akter died in RAB custody,” Manisha said.
She also asked if the country’s was not tarnished when election was conducted ‘the night before’ and without the presence of voters.
The demonstrators sought a judicial probe committee over the death of Jesmine Akter in Noagaon while in RAB custody, immediate repeal of Digital Security Act, dropping of cases against Prothom Alo editor and release of Shams.
The demonstrators later brought out a procession that paraded different streets of the city.
Protests wearing black masks
BASAD Dinajpur unit and Zela Sachetan Samaj hold a human chain wearing black masks in front of Dinajpur Press Club.
BASAD’s district unit convener Kibria Hossain said the government has become increasingly authoritarian due to its stay in power for a long time. A culture of fear has been pervasive in the country and those who speak up against wrongdoings are harassed under Digital Security Act. It is high time these wrongdoings are protested.
Human chain in Nilpharamari
A human chain was organised under the banner of concerned citizens at Chawrangee Morh in Nilphamari town at around 12 in the noon today.
Nilphamari Shilpa O Banik Samity’s former president Abdul Wahed Sarker, Nilphamari Press Club president Tahmin Haque, secretary Hasan Rabbi Pradhan, among others, spoke at the event.
The speakers demanded dropping of case against Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman and reporter Shams and annulment of Digital Security Act.
Human chain in Patuakhali
Patuakhali Press Club and Prothom Alo Bondhusava organised a human chain in the press club premises protesting at the case filed against Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman and journalist Shams.
Presiding over the event, Press Club president Swapan Banerjee said DSA is being used to muzzle the press repeatedly. This controversial act must immediately be repealed.
Poet Suvash Chanda said the way a jouranalist was picked up in the night is unfortunate. DSA should be annulled to ensure conducive environment for journalism.
“Effort to muzzle press”
In Tangail, members of Sakhipur Press Club hold a human chain in upazila parishad road.
Presided over by Sakhipur Press Club’s president Iqbal Gafur, former president Shakil Anwar, former secretary Enamul Haque, current secretary Sajjat Latif and vice president Taibur Rahman, among others, spoke at the human chain.
The speakers said an effort is on to stifle the media using the DSA.
Annul DSA, ensure freedom of speech
Journalists and people from different sectors in Brahmanbaria demanded immediate annulment of the DSA to ensure freedom of speech.
The human chain was held in front of Brahmanbaria Press Club.
Presided over by Press Club’s acting president Jasim Uddin, Bangladesh Communist Party’s district unit’s secretary Sajidul Islam, Workers Party member Nazrul Islam, district Jobo Moitree convener Nasir Mia, Brahmanbaria press club’s vice president Niaz Mohammad Khan, Sarail Press Club secretary Mahbub Khan, Akhaura upazila Press Club president Rubel Ahmed, journalists Jabed Rahim, Abdun Nur, Al Amin Shahin, Shihab Uddin, Mosharraf Hossain, Mofizur Rahman, college teacher Avijit Roy, district Chhatra Moitry president Fahim Muntasir, Prothom Alo Bondhusava members, among others, spoke at the human chain.
Speakers said the way Shams was picked up is deplorable. The DSA has spawned many questions since it came into effect. This black law has been made to intimidate people and muzzle the press. The latest example is filing of cases against Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman and journalist Shams.
The speakers demand withdrawal of the case against Matiur Rahman, annulment of DSA and release of journalist Shams.
Country’s image being tarnished by repressing journalists
Patuakhali’s Bauphal Press Club organized a human chain and protest rally demanding withdrawal of cases filed against journalists under DSA and annulment of DSA. The hour long human chain was held in front of Bauphal Press Club.
Speakers said DSA is a black law and an impediment to good and independent journalism. The law is a threat for freedom of speech and against democratic values. The country’s image is being tarnished by using this act.
The speakers demanded immediate release of journalist Shams, withdrawal of DSA cases against Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman and Dainik Jugantor’s special reporter Mahbub Alam.
Bauphal Press Club president Amirul Islam, secretary Arefin Shahid, journalist Kamruzzaman Bacchu, upazila BNP’s joint convener Samuyer Ahmed, among others, spoke at the event.
(This report was prepared based on input from Prothom Alo staff correspondents of Barishal, Brahmanbaria, Rajshahi and Moulvibazar; correspondents in Dhaka University, Rajshahi, Keshavpur, Jessore Dinajpur, Nilphamari, Patuakhali, Tangail’s Sakhipur and Patuakhali’s Bauphal)