Amnesty International on Thursday urged Bangladeshi authorities to release cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore and writer Mushtaq Ahmed immediately and unconditionally since they have been detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.
In a statement uploaded on its website, the organisation also urged the authorities to drop all charges against them as well as Dhaka-based film director Anonno Mamun, actor Shaheen Mridha and Baul singer Rita Dewan.
The international human rights organisation also expressed its deep concern over the recent arbitrary detention and other forms of harassment of artists who are facing increasing attacks on their right to freedom of opinion and expression in Bangladesh.
Amnesty also urged the government to urgently repeal the Digital Security Act 2018 or substantially amend its repressive provisions and guarantee people’s right to freedom of artistic expression and creativity as enshrined in domestic and international law.
In May 2020, police detained cartoonist Kishore and writer Mushtaq from their Dhaka residences under the DSA accusing them of ‘spreading rumours and misinformation on Facebook about the coronavirus situation’ and ‘undermining the image of the father of the nation’, the ‘national anthem’ or ‘national flag’, the statement said.
In their social media posts, they had criticised the government’s initiatives about the COVID-19 crisis in the country.
After the trailer of the movie ‘Nabab LLB’ was published in December 2020, Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Cyber Crime Unit filed a case against its director Anonno Mamun and actor Shaheen Mridha and arrested them under the Pornography Control Act 2012, alleging that the scene contains ‘very offensive gestures and obscene language’ which will create ‘negative perceptions about policing among the public’.
Both the artistes were later released on bail.
In December 2020, a Dhaka court issued an arrest warrant against Rita Dewan, a female folk singer, and her two daughters, in a case filed in February 2020 under the DSA 2018 accusing them of ‘hurting religious sentiments’ in a local folk music festival in Tangail on February 1, 2020. They were granted bail recently.