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Monday, May 29, 2023

Journalist from Bangladesh Charged for Writing about Rising Food Costs

The reporter was questioned by police for a "false story" that was released over the weekend

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BANGLADESH: After a piece about exorbitant food costs went viral, Bangladeshi police on Wednesday accused a reporter from a major newspaper of publishing “false news,” fueling concerns about press freedom.

According to his newspaper, Prothom Alo, Shamsuzzaman Shams was taken away from his residence in the industrial town of Savar outside of Dhaka at around 4 a.m. by plainclothes officers.

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Rights organisations claim that the government has frequently used the Digital Security Act, under which Shams was charged, to silence journalists and opponents.

On the occasion of Bangladesh’s independence day, quotes from regular people discussing their lives were included in an article released on Sunday by Prothom Alo.

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Bangladesh’s food prices have increased dramatically since the middle of 2022 as a result of Russia’s attack on Ukraine. The value of its money, the taka, has plummeted in relation to the US dollar.

The reporter was questioned by police for a “false story” that was released over the weekend, the home minister, Asaduzzaman Khan, confirmed.

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“A case has been filed against him,” the minister stated, adding that Shams would be released from detention but could be detained again over the accusations.

According to a copy of the case file acquired by Agence France-Presse, the reporter was charged under the Digital Security Act with “smearing the image of the government with false news” and for raising doubts about Bangladesh’s accomplishments.

Approximately 280 journalists have been charged under the Digital Security Act since it was passed in 2018, according to a local think tank.

This has raised worries that the 170 million-person country of South Asia, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has been in power since 2009, is becoming more authoritarian.

Bangladesh was rated 162 out of 180 nations in Reporters Without Borders’ 2022 World Press Freedom Index. Afghanistan and Russia (155) are rated higher than it. (156).

The government and Hasina’s governing party have increased their attacks on Bangladesh’s dwindling independent media outlets and journalists in recent months.

In February, the government shut down the sole outlet for the opposition, claiming it had broken the nation’s press rules.

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