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Cartoonist Tortured and Writer Dies in Jail

Bangladesh's Digital Security Act (DSA) criminalizes many forms of freedom of expression and imposes heavy fines and prison sentences for legitimate forms of dissent. Award winning cartoonist, Ahmed Kabir Kishore, told Amnesty International that he was tortured in custody by state security agencies prior to his arrest being officially recorded. On May 5, 2020 the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) officially recorded his arrest along with Mushtaq Ahmed for posting satirical cartoons on Facebook, as well as comments critical of Bangladeshi leaders and the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic under the DSA. The two had been held in pretrial detention for nine months. They have been denied bail at least six times. Mushtaq Ahmed died in prison on 25 February 2021.

A week later, on 4 March, Ahmed Kabir Kishore was released on bail for six months only. Charged under Bangladesh’s draconian Digital Security Act, Ahmed Kabir Kishore and nine others could face up to 10 years in prison solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression. Drawing cartoons and posting criticisms online aren’t crimes.

Cartoonists Rights Network International awarded Ahmed Kabir Kishore the Robert Russell Courage in Cartooning Award in 2020. For more information on this case and others (including musicians, journalists, photojournalists, and students) charged or arrested because of what they post online under the the draconian Digital Security Act, see the Amnesty International July 2021 report, No Space for Dissent – Bangladesh’s Crackdown on Freedom of Expression Online.

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