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Bangladesh charges 11, arrests 2 for spreading Covid-19 rumors

Dhaka, May 6 (efe-epa).– Police have arrested a Bangladesh cartoonist and a writer for allegedly spreading social media rumors over coronavirus pandemic, officials said on Wednesday.

Nine more people were also charged under the controversial digital security act that activists say was being used to create a “climate of fear” and suppress the public discontent about the government’s handling of the pandemic in the country that has reported 11,719 virus cases and 186 deaths so far.

“They were posting on Facebook about our Father of Nation, liberation war and spreading rumors over coronavirus pandemic. They had been damaging the image of the country and the government and were creating confusion among the people over the pandemic,” Monirul Islam, the officer-in-charge of Ramna police station in Dhaka, told EFE.

Islam said security forces arrested cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore and writer Mushtaq Ahmed on Tuesday.

Kishore introduced himself as a political cartoonist in his Facebook account “Ami Kishore” and Mushtaq earned his fame for running a crocodile farm before turning as a writer.

Police said the duo have linked with the other accused, including Sweden-based Bangladeshi journalist Tasneem Khalil and Germany-based blogger Asif Mohiuddin, for a campaign against the government.

Rights activists said the arrests and the charges against the individuals under the digital security act was an attempt to suppress the criticism of the government.

“When the nation is busy fighting the coronavirus, those who embezzled aid item, it was seen they are close to the government or at least sheltered by the ruling party men,” said prominent Bangladeshi Human Rights activist Nur Khan Liton.

“Those who wrote against this theft, corruption, in media or social media, those who are vocal about public discontent, we have seen in many areas of the country many of them were sued under the digital security act. By doing so, the state is trying to create a climate of fear to suppress the public discontent,” he said.

Bangladesh approved the controversial law in September 2018, which penalizes “negative propaganda” against Bangladesh’s liberation war or former-president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of prime minister Sheikh Hasina.

Journalists and editors have criticized the law claiming it would curb freedom of expression.

Rights group Amnesty International said more than 1,000 cases have been filed under this act since it was implemented in October 2018.

The cybercrime tribunal has dismissed more than 200 cases for lacking sufficient evidence into the allegations. EFE-EPA

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