Bangladesh: journalist faces 30 counts of criminal defamation

Bangladesh: journalist faces 30 counts of criminal defamation

PEN Center USA joins PEN International and PEN Bangladesh in their deep concern over reports that The Daily Star editor Mahfuz Anam is currently facing some 38 lawsuits on charges of criminal defamation and sedition.

Coming only weeks before the first anniversary of the murder of Bangladeshi blogger, journalist, and activist Avijit Roy, a total of 30 defamation cases and eight sedition charges have been filed against Mahfuz Anam, editor of The Daily Star—one of Bangladesh's English language newspapers—according to news reports. Reports indicate that the barrage of lawsuits filed across that country since February 14, 2016, come in response to Anam’s February 3, 2016 admission on a TV chat show that he had made a mistake by running corruption stories between 2007 and 2008, based on uncorroborated information provided by the country’s military intelligence agency, the DGFI. Petitioners are reported to argue that the articles paved the way for the arrest of the incumbent Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, in July 2007. Under the Bangladeshi legal system, an offense of criminal defamation is punishable by up to two years in prison and/or a fine.

PEN Center USA joins PEN International in asserting that criminal defamation laws are pernicious and widely used by those in positions of power to silence critics. Such laws—and the disproportionate penalties that they introduce—have a chilling effect on writers and journalists who uncover corruption, malfeasance, and abuse of power, and who are conscious of the possibility of serving lengthy prison sentences and the possibility of being left with a criminal record for reporting on these issues. The result is the stifling of reporting and public debate, and difficulty in holding those in power to account. PEN calls on the Bangladeshi authorities to repeal its criminal defamation legislation.

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Please SIGN the petition at the bottom of this page to join PEN Center USA's appeal to the Bangladeshi authorities:

  • Denouncing the charges levied against Mahfuz Anam, as they are a disproportionate response to the allegations against him;
  • Demanding the Bangladeshi authorities repeal its criminal defamation legislation;
  • Condemning the brutal attacks on journalists in Bangladesh, and calling on the government to be more proactive in preventing further violence.

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