Internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist and editor of Blitz, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury faces false charges under Digital Security Act (DSA) for the “crime” of publishing report based on specific evidences about notorious activities of an anti-Bangladesh, of pro-militancy, anti-India, anti-Hindu and anti-government individual in Bangladesh.
Today, Mr. Choudhury appeared before the Cyber Tribunal in Dhaka, Bangladesh and sought bail in the case. His lawyer Akter Hossain Shohel told this correspondent that based on his petition the Cyber Tribunal’s judge granted bail and fixed August 17 as the next date, when Mr. Choudhury needs to re-appear before the tribunal.
Earlier on March 3, 2022 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”.
It further said: On May 6, 2021, Shahana Rashid Sanu, a poet and literary writer, filed a complaint against Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor of the tabloid Weekly Blitz, at the Dhaka Cyber Tribunal, pointing to eight articles published on its website, which accused Sanu and her sons of engaging in criminal and anti-government activities, according to a copy of the complaint, which CPJ reviewed, and Choudhury, who spoke to CPJ by phone.
On June 10, 2021, the Dhaka Cyber Tribunal referred the case to the cybercrime unit of the Dhaka police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for investigation, Choudhury told CPJ. On August 16, 2021, CID officers interrogated Choudhury for around two hours, during which they repeatedly asked him why he published the articles and demanded he reveal his sources, he said.
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.
The first two offenses can each carry a prison sentence of up to three years and a fine between 300,000 taka (US$3,500) and 500,000 taka (US$5,815), according to the law, which states that abetment carries the same punishment as committing an offense itself.
On February 17, 2022, the Dhaka Cyber Tribunal issued a summons for Choudhury to appear on April 6, 2022, at which time the journalist’s lawyer will file an application for anticipatory bail, Choudhury said, adding that if anticipatory bail is denied, the tribunal will frame, or determine the nature of, the charges against him.
Sub-inspector Hassan, the investigating officer in the case, did not respond to CPJ’s text message requesting comment. Sanu did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment sent via messaging app.
Commenting on the case, Choudhury’s counsel Advocate Akter Hossain Shohel said: “Allegations brough in the case are totally false and baseless”.
It may be mentioned here that, back in 2007, the United States Congress passed a resolution in favor of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, where it was clearly stated: “the Government of Bangladesh should cease harassment and intimidation of Mr. Choudhury and take steps to protect Mr. Choudhury”.
Commenting on the false case lodged against Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury under Digital Security Act (DSA), a Congressional aide told this correspondent: “The latest case of falsely pressing charges against Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is not only a matter of grave concern, it also has clearly ignored the resolution passed by the United States Congress. Mr. Choudhury is highly admired by the members of the US Congress for his courageous stand against religious extremism and jihad. United States Congress members, during hearing of House Resolution 64 have clearly termed Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury as a “hero” and “model for the entire world”. Bangladesh authorities should immediately look into this matter and save Mr. Choudhury from further harassment. Bangladesh authorities should also initiate a high-level investigation into the case of the plaintiff of this false case”.
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