Bangladesh authorities need to protect journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury from harassment

A case under Digital Security Act (DSA) has been lodged against Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury with Dhaka’s Cyber Tribunal.

It seems that freedom of expression and freedom of the press is being suffocated in Bangladesh under a draconian law titled Digital Security Act, and internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist and editor of Weekly Blitz newspaper has become the latest victim of this law.

For those who are yet to know this extremely courageous journalist who has endured terrible ordeals for years for the “crimes” of denouncing anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial; confronting radical Islam and militancy; and advocating interfaith harmony. To the international community and lawmakers around the world, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is considered and admired as a hero who fights against religious extremism. His contributions have been well endorsed by the Parliament of Australia (Australian Senate), European Union ParliamentBritish House of Commons, and the United States Congress

Back in 2003, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury was arrested at Dhaka International Airport on his way to Tel Aviv, Israel for attending an international peace conference, which was co-organized by the Tel Aviv University and the US Department of State. He also was scheduled to attend as the key speaker at another event organized by the Hebrew Writers’ Association. Then Islamist coalition government of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh played a nasty trick by sending Mr Choudhury to prison and by bringing false charges of sedition, and treason and blasphemy. Pro-militancy BNP-Jamaat coalition government falsely branded Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury as “an agent of Mossad”, applied extreme harsh tactics and brutally tortured him in police custody. A top leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, Motiur Rahman Nizami (a war criminal who was handed the death penalty for his crimes committed during Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971) during a meeting of Jamaat at Dhaka’s Baitul Mukarram area publicly demanded Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury’s death penalty and termed this courageous journalist “an enemy of Islam”.

After many years of legal battle and numerous ordeals and sufferings, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury was freed from prison in July 2018 and since has been serving as the editor of Weekly Blitz newspaper. Thanks to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her government for onwards protecting this heroic journalist. Ever since his release from prison, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury has been vigorously writing in numerous newspapers around the world highlighting the magnanimous statesmanship and brilliant economic progress of Bangladesh. He also has been regularly writing against radical Islam and militancy, thus consistently promoting interfaith harmony. His newspaper Weekly Blitz enjoys appreciation from readers around the world for its bold and courageous stand against religious extremism, militancy and terrorism.

Unfortunately, very recently Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury has come under attack from the agents of religious extremism and the anti-Sheikh Hasina bloc. According to media reports, a false case under Digital Security Act (DSA) has been lodged against Mr Choudhury with Dhaka’s Cyber Tribunal for the “crime” of publishing a report based on specific evidence about notorious activities of an anti-Bangladesh, pro-militancy, anti-India, anti-Hindu and anti-government individual in Bangladesh. On April 6, 2022, Mr Choudhury appeared before the Cyber Tribunal in Dhaka, Bangladesh and sought anticipatory bail in this case. According to Akter Hossain Shohel, attorney of Mr Choudhury, the tribunal has fixed August 17, 2022, as the next date, when Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury needs to re-appear before the tribunal. 

Earlier on March 3, 2022, the Committee to Protect Journalists in its report said: “Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor of the tabloid Weekly Blitz, faces Digital Security Act proceedings after publishing eight articles about a family allegedly engaging in criminal and anti-government activities”.

According to media reports, Section 40 of the Digital Security Act allows authorities 60 days to complete an investigation, which can be extended with judicial approval. The CID submitted applications to extend the investigation period on June 22, 2021, September 30, 2021, and November 17, 2021, according to Choudhury.

On January 23, 2022, Sub-inspector Mehdi Hassan filed an investigative report at the Dhaka Cyber Tribunal which accused Choudhury of violating three sections of the Digital Security Act pertaining to the publication of offensive, false, or threatening information; defamation; and abetment.

According to a report published by Indian Spectator: Shahana Rashid Sanu posted a video of Mizanur Rahman Azhari on March 21, 2021, on her Facebook ID protesting the Bangladesh visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PM Modi visited Bangladesh to attend the Golden Jubilee celebration of Bangladesh’s victory against Pakistani occupation forces. In the comment section of this notorious post, several people suggested waging jihad against the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her government need to immediately initiate an investigation into the aforesaid false case lodged against Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury and punish the woman who had made attempts of destabilizing the country’s law and order situation during the March-2021 Bangladesh visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Bangladesh authorities should also initiate a high-level neutral probe into the dubious actions of Sub-inspector Mehdi Hassan of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Bangladesh Police.

(The article is an opinion piece and has not been edited by Digpu staff. All views and opinions belong to the author and Digpu claims no responsibility of the same.)

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