Democracy contains no offence as ‘tarnishing image’

Shahdeen Malik

While sharing a report of Prothom Alo online to Facebook, the mismatch between the quote and the picture in the graphic card could lead to misunderstanding. The Prothom Alo authorities sensed the matter, retracted the card quickly and published a note of correction.

Needless to say, Prothom Alo should have been more cautious before releasing the picture.

An analysis on the entire course of subsequent developments will show that an inconceivable situation has been created, making a mountain out of a molehill. Members of a law enforcement agency picked up Prothom Alo staff correspondent Samsuzzaman from his residence in Savar.

It was followed by back-to-back statements by the ministers. Even Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman and its reporter Samsuzzaman have been sued in cases. All these incidents have been carried out on the allegation of tarnishing image.

The application of the Digital Security Act to penalise for the alleged offence of defamation using the criminal law is entirely a reflection of medieval law and jurisprudence.

There is no crime called 'tarnishing image' in any democratic country of the world. Such allegations are used to persecute citizens in countries with grossly undemocratic and highly authoritarian governments, including Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Rwanda.

These incidents stirred up condemnation and anger in the international arena. International organisations of various countries are also making statements, labeling it as oppression.

Through the incident, the government successfully proved again how limited freedom of speech, democratic values and accountability are in the country. The government’s authoritarian attitude has been reflected in the incident.

We hope the country will soon get rid of this oppressive situation. But it will not be able to get over the situation until the Digital Security Act is in place. The law contains a reflection of the medieval judicial system and this is why this strange and irrational law should be repealed.