Bangladesh journalist arrested in fake news case granted bail

Dhaka, Apr 3 (EFE).- A Bangladesh court on Monday granted bail to a journalist from the Bengali daily Prothom Alo, five days after he was arrested over an alleged “false report” on the rising cost of living in the country and was accused of manipulating a photograph.

Dhaka’s Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Muhammad Asaduzzaman Noor granted bail to journalist Shamsuzzman Shams on his second bail petition in a week, his lawyer Prashanta Kumar Karmoker told EEE.

The bail will remain in effect until “the submission of police report in the case filed against him,” Karmoker added.

Shams works for the daily Prothom Alo, the Bangladeshi newspaper with the highest circulation, and was mired in a controversy an article by him over the high cost of living in Bangladesh was published on Mar. 26, the independence day.

The report quoted a day laborer as saying, “what I will do with independence if I do not have rice in my stomach? (I) sweat it out in the kitchen market. We need freedom of fish, meat, and rice.”

The newspaper posted the comment along with the photo of a boy not linked to the remarks.

Since the photo and comments were from different people, it sparked controversy, prompting the newspaper to delete the post from its social media pages and correct the news item on its website.

A pro-government television channel claimed that Shams paid the boy Taka 10 ($0.09) to pose for the photograph.

The police pressed charges against the journalist under the controversial Digital Security Act, around 30 hours after his arrest.

Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman was also charged under the same case, though he received a six-week anticipatory bail on Sunday.

The prosecution and arrest of the Prothom Alo journalist triggered widespread protests in Bangladesh and abroad, with United Nations Human Rights Chief Volker Turk calling on Bangladesh to immediately suspend the application of the DSA.

Human Rights group Amnesty International called the arrest “a blatant violation of the right to freedom of expression,” and demanded his immediate release.

The DSA came into effect in 2018 just before a general election in which the ruling party Awami League and its allies retained power for a third consecutive term. EFE


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