As many as 56 journalists were subject to abuse, harassment, lawsuit, threats and obstructions to work over the span of three months -- from January to March -- in Bangladesh, according to a report published by rights group Ain O Salish Kendra.
The report, published on Friday, highlighted human rights violations based on information collected from ten national newspapers, digital news outlets and other sources.
During this period, reports of human rights violations were frequent. It included deaths in law-enforcement custody, abduction and enforced disappearance, restrictions on political programmes, persecution of minorities and abuse of the Digital Security Act to curb liberal thoughts and freedom of expression.
Mentioning the recent attacks and lawsuits against journalists as a threat to the freedom of media, the report focused on the detention of Prothom Alo reporter Samsuzzaman Shams. The handling of the Shams case by the police was a display of "inconsistent behaviour and violation of law", the rights group said.
Police were accused of such offences when Raghunath Khan, a Satkhira-based journalist, was detained too, as they denied the detention before showing him arrested in an explosives case nine hours after his confinement, it said.
Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman was also named in a case under the Digital Security Act. "These cases will affect the country’s media freedom and stir fear and insecurity among journalists in performing their duties,” the report added.
Law Minister Anisul Huq and high-ranking government officials had pledged to take precautionary measures before filing such cases against media workers under the controversial digital security law, but the incidents of human rights violations over three months do not reflect it. Rather, remarks by those high-ranking officers are motivating people to file more cases against journalists, it said.
The rights group also expressed concerns over comments made by Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan on Shams’s detention and cases against Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman.