Some 4,657 people, mostly politicians and journalists, have been sued under the Information and Communication (ICT) Act and the Digital Security Act (DSA) since 2013, said a report of the Centre for Governance Studies on Thursday.
In the report titled "Three Years of Digital Security Act 2018 (DSA): Observations and Summary Findings", the Centre for Governance Studies said it has tracked and documented cases filed under the DSA since 1 January 2020.
Professor Ali Riaz, who teaches political science at Illinois State University, described the trend as highly disturbing and immensely disconcerting.
"The wanton use of the law has created a culture of fear in Bangladesh. Repealing the law has become necessary," he said.
Of these cases, 925 were filed in 2018; 1,189 in 2019 and 1,128 cases in 2020. According to the report, more than 1,500 cases were filed between 1 January 2020 and 15 September 2021.
The Centre for Governance Studies was able to track details of 668 cases with 1,516 accused; among them 194 are politicians, 142 are journalists, 67 are students, and 35 teachers. Among those who have been arrested, 42 are journalists, 55 politicians, and 32 students.
The Centre for Governance Studies found that the majority of these cases were not filed by aggrieved individuals but often by ruling party activists for their leaders. Law enforcement agencies have filed 76 cases, a press release from the Centre said.
The judicial process is extremely slow in trying these cases with only two cases having been settled so far, according to the report.
The Centre further said there have been cases where the accused was effectively being punished even before a trial and submission of a probe report.
The data for the study was gathered from government-approved print and electronic media; the accused or their family and friends; the lawyers of the accused; and police stations and other relevant departments.
The data is presented and regularly updated on the website https://freedominfo.net, said the press release of the Centre for Governance Studies.