I am shocked and indescribably overwhelmed by the sudden and strange developments over the arrest, denial of bail and imprisonment of Prothom Alo staff correspondent Samsuzzaman. 

I asked myself, how can it happen? How could a young journalist suffer such a consequence due to a quote and a picture published mistakenly (though it was retracted quickly to ward off misunderstanding and a note of correction was published too). 

In the case filed against him, it was initially alleged that Samsuzzaman and the newspaper he works for have tarnished the image of Bangladesh. In the other case, Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman, in addition to the young journalist and some unknown people, have been made accused.

Several ministers and ruling party leaders later came up with the same complaint. 

However, the arrest drew condemnation and criticism from international journalists, their organisations and global campaigners of human rights. The entire process and the imprisonment of Samsuzzaman made me think, who is tarnishing the image of Bangladesh?

After sharing a graphic card on a news of Prothom Alo online to Facebook, a mismatch was noticed between the quote and the picture in the card, which prompted the authorities to retract it. 

It was preferable to overlook the issue after the incorporation of a note of correction into the online report. If an individual or group felt offended, they could have discussed the issue online as well as in print media and television talks shows. Also, they could have gone to the Press Council. 

As a democratic country, we also expect debates on different views in Bangladesh. But why should Samsuzzaman be picked up in the dark of night? Why should the bail petition be rejected and he be imprisoned? 

A small piece of news that would have escaped the attention of a great deal of readers has now grabbed the attention of all in the national and international arena. It has now become another example of decline in democratic practice in Bangladesh.

Are these activities brightening the image of Bangladesh? What image of Bangladesh is being presented internationally through the punishment of Samsuzzaman? 

It is more harmful for the image of Bangladesh to allege that the quote and picture may weaken the base of our independence. The foundation of our independence is very strong and it became stronger in the 52nd year of independence. Neither a quote nor a newspaper can undermine the solid base of the great independence. 

The self-appointed guards of the image of Bangladesh must understand that their over-enthusiastic and thoughtless actions and words may cause damage not only to the image of Bangladesh, but also to the image of many public-private institutions and leaders of the country.  

We have seen time and again examples of how the people are being detained without trial, kept in the custody of law enforcement agencies through misuse of the much-discussed Digital Security Act (DSA). 

These examples clearly show that this law should be repealed without further delay. Through its repeal, we would be able to brighten our image on national and international stages. 

In the course of a debate on who is damaging the image of Bangladesh more, we should not forget the condition of Samsuzzaman, his mother and other family members. It would also be unjust to make them suffer in this holy month of Ramadan.

***Rounaq Jahan is a political scientist and distinguished fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD)