Defamation / Reputation, Hate Speech, Political Expression
Awan v. Levant
Closed Contracts Expression
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Muhammud Ruhul Amin Khandaker, a lecturer at the Jahangirnagar University in Bangladesh in his Facebook posts commented on a series on road traffic accidents in the country. With a heavy dose of irony, Khandaker wished for the death of Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. He was charged and convicted for sedition by the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court, Dhaka. The court sentenced him to three years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of 10,000 Bangladesh Taka.
(Global FoE could not identify official legal and government records on the case and information on the case was derived from secondary sources. Global FoE notes that media outlets may not provide complete information about this case. Additional information regarding legal matters will be updated as an official source becomes available)
On August 13, 2011, five persons, including an acclaimed filmmaker and a renowned national anchor died in a road accident in Bangladesh. Following the incident, Muhummad Ruhul Amin Khandaker (“Khandaker“), a lecturer of the Department of Information and Technology at Jahangirnagar University in Bangladesh, wrote on his Facebook wall on the same day, “Consequences of driving licenses without inspection, five persons including Tareque and Mishuk Munir died: Everybody dies, why not Hasina? [The Prime Minister of Bangladesh].” (1) A pro-government newspaper published Khandaker’s post.
On 18 August 2011, on the basis of the newspaper reports, a High Court Division Bench issued a suo moto order asking Khadekar to appear before the Bench. The Court termed Khandaker’s post as a “derogatory statement”.(2) Despite of the repeated notices from the Court, Khandaker failed to appear before the Court. On January 8, 2012, a Division Bench of the High Court Division ordered a sedition case to be filed against Khandaker by the Inspector General of Police under Section 124-A of the Bangladesh Penal Code.
(1) Odhikar, Human Rights Monitoring Report, <http://www.bangladeshchronicle.net/docs/Human_Rights_Monitoring_Report_January_2012.pdf> (Feb. 1, 2012).
(2) Asian Legal Resource Centre, Bangladesh: Absence of Freedom of Expression contributes to non-existence of the rule of law, (Sep. 5, 2014), <http://www.alrc.net/doc/mainfile.php/hrc27/825/>.
The Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court, Dhaka convicted Khandaker under Section 124-A of the Bangladesh Penal Code over the sedition charges. The Court sentenced him to undergo three years rigorous imprisonment. He was also ordered to pay a fine of 10,ooo Bangladesh Taka, failing which he would have to undergo three more months of rigorous imprisonment.(3)
(3) NewsMobile, University teacher jailed for Facebook remark on PM Hasina, (Aug. 12, 2015), <http://www.newsmobile.in/articles/2015/08/12/university-teacher-jailed-for-facebook-remark-on-pm-hasina/>.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
The decision fails to distinguish between the right of a citizen to voice his opinion about the functioning of the government authorities and a ‘true threat’. In the present case, the Lecturer never intended to threaten the life of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. He was merely engaging in political hyperbole to draw attention to the laxity of the authorities in giving licenses to individuals without inspection.
Further, this decision of the Dhaka Court would creating a chilling effect on the right of free speech of the citizens of Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi citizens will not criticize the government authorities for fear of criminal sanctions and fines.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
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