Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) expresses grave concern over the imprisonment of Maidul Islam, Assistant Professor, University of Chittagong, against whom a case was filed under the most controversial Section 57 of Information and Communication Technology Act 2006 (amended 2013). Considering the limitations of this section, ASK demands his immediate release.
According to media reports, on 24 July 2018, a defamation case was filed by a former leader of Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) against Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Chittagong, Maidul Islam, under Section 57 of ICT Act for his derogatory remarks about the Prime Minister on the social media network, Facebook. Initially Maidul Islam got bail for 8 weeks from the High Court division, on the completion of which he went to the lower court on 24 September to apply for bail again. The court denied his bail and sent him to the prison. Earlier before this, when he made posts on Facebook supporting the quota reform regarding government jobs, he was threatened by the BCL, due to which he had to leave the campus for his own safety. Immediately after that the BCL declared him “unwelcome” in the University campus and demanded to the Vice Chancellor to remove him from his job.
ASK expresses grave concern on this incident of sending a teacher to prison under the controversial and highly criticized Section 57. On the other hand, the University of Chittagong authorities suspended Maidul Islam from the University on 26 September, which is extremely condemnable. ASK is of the opinion that such an action will result in increasing the fear among the society regarding exercising their freedom of expression, and freedom of thought and opinion. ASK has repeatedly stated that Section 57 is vague and broad, and has been used as a weapon for widespread harassment and the fulfillment of political agenda. Agreeing with the concerns of human rights activists and media personnel, for the last two years the government declared to repeal the Section at various occasions.
Despite pledging such, the Digital Security Bill that was recently approved by the Parliament, contains few provisions similar to the vague and broad definition of Section 57. ASK demands the government to protect the fundamental constitutional right to freedom of expression of the people by reviewing the new law and amending the provisions that contradict with the right to freedom of expression.