A 28-year-old lecturer at a Bangladesh university was arrested on Sunday over a Facebook post for allegedly humiliating the country’s former Health Minister Mohammad Nasim, who died of the coronavirus on Saturday, the Dhaka Tribune reported.
Tajhat Police Station investigating officer Rabiul Islam told the newspaper that Sirajam Munira was arrested after a case was filed against her under the Digital Security Act. Munira is a lecturer at Begum Rokeya University’s Department of Bangla in Dhaka.
On Saturday afternoon, Munira’s Facebook post went viral and reportedly angered teachers and students on the campus. The university’s registrar Abu Hena Mustafa Kamal then filed a complaint with the police.
Islam said the lecturer posted a derogatory comment on the death of Mohammad Nasim, AFP reported. “She mocked a dead person,” Islam added. “It went viral and created negative reactions and undermined the image of the country.” Munira apologised after deleting her comments from Facebook.
The Digital Security Act, 2018 contains some questionable provisions. According to Section 25 of the Act, it is an offence for any individual to send any information through any digital medium that may be “offensive or fear inducing, or which despite knowing it as false is sent, published or propagated with the intention to annoy, insult, humiliate or denigrate a person”.
The penalty for a first offence under this section is imprisonment of up to three years and a fine of up to 3 lakh taka (Rs 2.69 lakh). For a repeat offence, the penalty is imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of up to 10 lakh taka (Rs 8.96 lakh).
Amnesty International has described the Act as “even more repressive” than the defunct Information Technology Act, which the non-governmental organisation has alleged led to the arrest of over 1,200 people. The law “criminalizes many forms of freedom of expression and imposes heavy fines and prison sentences for legitimate forms of dissent”, Amnesty International has said. Since March, at least 44 people have been arrested and charged under laws regulating the internet, AFP reported.
Bangladesh has so far reported over 90,000 coronavirus cases, including two ministers in Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Cabinet, as well as five members of Parliament. On Saturday Sheikh Abdullah, the state minister for religious affairs, also died of the virus.