LGRD Minister Mosharraf says journalist Probir Sikdar ‘had to be arrested’

Journalist Probir Sikdar had to be arrested because Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act has been invoked against him, says LGRD and Cooperatives Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain.

Staff Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 17 August 2015, 06:04 PM
Updated : 17 August 2015, 07:10 PM

Reacting to Sikdar's arrest, the minister said he was not aware in advance of the case filed against Sikdar.
 
"But since he has been sued under Section 57 of ICT Act, the arrest was inevitable," the minister said.
 
"Why will I not take strong legal action against someone who is openly writing that if he (Sikdar) is killed, I am the one who is behind it?" Mosharraf told bdnews24.com.
 
The minister insisted that if someone was sued under Section 57 of the ICT Act, the accused had to be arrested.
 
"There is no way around that."
 
Section 57 of the law criminalises ‘publishing fake, obscene or defaming information in electronic form’:
 
“If any person deliberately publishes or transmits or causes to be published or transmitted in the website or in electronic form any material which is fake and obscene or its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, or causes to deteriorate or creates possibility to deteriorate law and order, prejudice the image of the State or person or causes to hurt or may hurt religious belief or instigate against any person or organisation, then this activity of his will be regarded as an offence."

Offence under this provision of the ICT Act is punishable by at least seven years in prison and 14 years imprisonment at the most. Fine can be as high as Tk 10 million.
 
Rights activists have been vocal against this legal provision, saying this effectively muzzles the freedom of speech and expression.
 
"I had no information of his arrest, no idea why he has been framed under ICT Act. Just saw the news on television but I presume he is arrested because of the legal provisions invoked against him," said Mosharraf.
 
The minister said Probir Sikdar's Facebook status blaming him for his murder, if that happened, forced him into legal action.
 
"Tell me who on earth will not seek legal action if such an accusation is made. I have to protect myself, defend myself."
 
The minister said that if 'someone on his behalf' had sought legal redress, the action was justified.
 
"Or else it would be like accepting his (Sikdar's) charges. God forbid, but if suddenly he died, I would be in the dock as prime accused."

Mosharraf asked the bdnews24.com correspondent: "What would you do in such a situation? Would you accept you are planning to kill him or would you move the court of law to investigate the truth?"
 
When asked if there was 'some other reason' for such stringent legal action, Mosharraf said: "Ask him that, ask someone in his family."
 
"I was not aware of what he posted on Facebook. I came to know of it because BBC (Bangla) called me up for a reaction. 
 
“I am in politics and 10,000 to 20,000 people are ready to die for me. If any of them has moved the court, why should I be pushed for explanation?"
 
The minister said he had no idea who had filed the case. "Now I have just come to know a Hindu gentleman has moved the court as complainant."
 
"He has forced us to move the court. What is illegal or immoral about it?"
 
While Probir Sikdar hails from Faridpur, Mosharraf represents Faridpur in Parliament and plaintiff of the case Swapan Kumar Pal is the adviser to a Puja committee in the district.
 
After being threatened for his Facebook posts, journalist Sikdar had tried to file a general diary at a police station in Dhaka highlighting his insecurity.
 
On Aug 10, Sikdar talked about the police's refusal to register the complaint in his Facebook posting and blamed Minister Hossain for the threat to his life.

His Facebook status, titled ‘Those who are a threat to my life and will be responsible for my death’, read:
 
“I am clearly saying that the people named below will be responsible for my life being at risk or my death.
 
1. LGRD Minister Engineer Khandker Mosharraf Hossain, MP
 
2. Razakar Nula Moosa alias Dr Moosa bin Shamser
 
3. Death-row war criminal Bachchu Razakar alias Mawlana Abul Kalam Azad
 
And their followers-associates.”
 
Sikdar was moved to Faridpur around Sunday midnight after he was arrested in Dhaka in the evening.
 
The case against him was lodged at Faridpur Kotwali Police Station by then.
 
A local court on Monday sent the journalist to prison.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher