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Defamatory Article on Bangladesh

Legal notice served on Reporters Without Borders

  • Staff Correspondent
  • 28 July, 2021 12:00 AM
  • Print news

French lawyer Madou Kone, on behalf of four Bangladeshi-origin French citizens, has served a legal notice on Reporters Without Borders demanding withdrawal of a defamatory article on Bangladesh and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The counsel has served the notice on behalf of Abul Kashem, Mazibur Rahman, Monzurul Hasan Chowdhury and Koyes Dilwar Hussain.   

On July 2, Reporters Without Borders in its 2021 Edition published an article titled “Old Tyrants, Two Women and a European: RSF Unveils its 2021 Edition of “Predators of Press Freedom” criticising “harassment of Bangladeshi journalists” under the Digital Security Act.

In the legal notice, the lawyer termed the article highly defamatory and punishable offence as per the French law.

The Editor-in-Chief and others concerned of Reporters Without Borders have been asked to retract content of the article and apologise within 15 days.

The French lawyer also said Bangladeshi journalist associations and leaders do not subscribe to the view of the report and they protested against the content.

As per the directive of Bangladesh Information Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud, Chief Information Officer sent a rejoinder to Reporters Without Borders on July 9 and gave an intimation of legal action against the article. The text of the legal notice served on July 26 is as follows:

My clients have given me one of your July 2, 2021 articles titled “Old Tyrants, Two Women and a European: RSF Unveils its 2021 Edition of “Predators of Press Freedom” (PJ). My clients are Bangalee nationals who have lived in France for over 30 years, for the least, and over 40 years, for the oldest. They were particularly shocked and hurt to read the contents of the aroused article; article which targets, by name and photographically, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Mrs. Sheikh Hasina, as a person who infringes the freedom of the press, and this, alongside Presidents, some of whom are unfavourably known from an international view.

In this article you do not hesitate to specify that the said Prime Minister is one of the only two women present on your list of “predators ...”. Worse, you write: “The other predator is Sheikh Hasina, who has ruled Bangladesh since 2009. The daughter of the hero of independence notably passed a law on digital security in 2018 which led to prosecutions against more than 70 journalists and bloggers. “.

Not only did my clients take this statement as an insult to their Minister, but also to the memory of her late father. And as a consequence, an attack on the integrity of Bangladesh and its people. It is as Bangalee nationals that my clients consider your approach to be wrong and unfair. Indeed, you do not detail the context and the spirit of the law of 2018, which you evoke as the evidence that supports your words. In addition, your article has been seriously contested by the journalist community in Bangladesh. Thus, the largest associations of journalists in Bangladesh: “Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists”, “Dhaka Union of Journalists” and “Chittagong Press Club” do not share your opinion. Indeed, the law you are talking about, that is to say the digital security law in Bangladesh, aims to protect all people against cybercrime. This law is not intended to harm journalists. The same type of law has, moreover, been enacted in various EU countries, Australia, Singapore, India, Pakistan and many other countries. As a reminder, the freedom of the press, in France, framed by the law of July 29, 1881, does not allow you to publicly utter statements that undermine the honor and consideration of a person. Violating this principle is akin to the offense of defamation provided for and punished by the Penal Code. Thus, article 29 of the said law provides that: “Any allegation or imputation of an act which harms the honor or the consideration of the person or body to which the act is imputed is defamation. The direct publication or by way of reproduction of this allegation or this attribution is punishable, even if it is made in doubtful form or if it targets a person or a body not expressly named, but whose identification is made possible by the terms speeches, cries, threats, written or printed matter, placards or posters incriminated. “Your succinct words out of context are defamatory. It is therefore amicably, and in order to avoid referral to the Bangladeshi authorities who will then have the right to sue for defamation against you that my clients want you to withdraw the said remarks concerning Mrs. Sheikh Hasina and then you apologise to the principal concerned, as well as to the Bangalee people, within 15 days of the referral of this letter that you must consider as a formal notice, with all the legal consequences that justice and the law attach to this type of act. Failing that, I have been instructed to seize the French and European courts with jurisdiction in such matters. In accordance with my rules of ethics, I urge you to send a copy of this letter to your lawyer, at whose disposal I naturally stay.