Sajeeb Wazed Joy continues in his quest to find new excuses for the indefensible conduct of the Bangladesh government.
Joy is the son of the Bangladesh prime minister and her IT advisor. In terms of political sons, think something like Donald Trump Jr. to his father. Obsequious loyalty.
Joy likes to find events that happen in liberal democratic countries to justify the authoritarian regime ruled by his mother – that is to say a regime that represses the political opposition , rigs the elections , and jails , disappears or kills many of those who openly dissent or otherwise threaten the regime. He looks for spurious comparisons and accuses “westerners”, who criticize Bangladesh, of “hypocrisy”.
And he has just tried to do it again – this time over freedom of speech. In a recent Facebook post he seeks to argue that Bangladesh’s use of the Digital Security Act (DSA) is far less restrictive of free expression than the steps taken in the United States by Twitter and other social media businesses who have blocked President Trump on their sites. . . .
“We do not want to see hypocritical statements from you in the future regarding freedom of speech in Bangladesh anymore” – he tells the US and other western embassies.
It should come as no surprise to those who have read his defense of enforced disappearances in Bangladesh that he would attempt such an absurd comparison.
Bangladesh’s DSA is a law that contains very broad offenses that allows the police to arrest anyone who publishes news or social media commentary which criticizes the government, the Awami League, or ruling party politicians. Not everyone who criticizes is arrested – but the number of people detained for these offenses has now reached the high hundreds, heading swiftly to the thousands. And when they are arrested, no one is immediately bailed. Each person will spend on average three months in jail before a court agrees to provide them bail.
As one can imagine, the DSA has had a very significant impact in stifling freedom of expression in Bangladesh
So, what does Joy have to say about it? He claims that the Bangladesh government’s use of the DSA is far less restrictive and punitive than Twitter banning Trump. This is what he states in his Facebook post
“Twitter and other social media in the US have banned the President of the US permanently, along with several other people and organizations that spread falsehoods that led to violence. This is the limit of freedom of speech in the United States.
For all of those who complain about our Digital Security Act, in the US the government lets private companies dictate. In Bangladesh we believe that it should not be up to private companies, but up to the courts to decide.
Everyone has the right to freedom of speech, but that freedom ends when you spread falsehoods that end up hurting others. No one has the right to hurt others.
I want the US Embassy in Dhaka, as well as other western embassies to take note of this post. We do not want to see hypocritical statements from you in the future regarding freedom of speech in Bangladesh anymore. ”
Where to start?
Twitter allows anyone to criticize the US government and politicians. When it does take action against a person, for inciting violence for example, it is to block them from using that particular platform. They have no other powers.
In Bangladesh, by contrast, critical commentary against the government and ruling party politicians is often not permitted. Very often, it results in the police filing criminal cases under the DSA, arresting them and the courts detaining them for months in prison.
Whilst in the US, Twitter only blocked Trump from the platform following an incident involving a violent attack on congress buildings, and the fear that there was a “risk of further incitement of violence,” in Bangladesh, governmental action involving arrest and imprisonment takes place just for publishing satirical cartoons or something even less significant such as highlighting government corruption or posting a satirical cartoon.
Joy seems to think that in Bangladesh “Everyone has the right to freedom of speech, but that freedom ends when you spread falsehoods that end up hurting others. No one has the right to hurt others. “
Yes, there should be limits to freedom of speech and these freedoms should end when there is direct incitement to violence . But that is not the boundary line that exists in Bangladesh – as people are prosecuted simply by writing something that embarrasses the government or its politicians.
Indeed, say something highly critical about Joy’s mother or indeed his grandfather – as the DSA contains a very specific offense to catch those criticizing Sheikh Mujibur Rahman – and the wrath of Bangladesh’s criminal justice system will be set upon you.
Yet again, Joy exhibits obsequiousness to his mother’s authoritarian government whilst making himself look pretty foolish to anyone who knows a little bit about both Bangladesh and the United States.
// David Bergman