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ERF raises its voice against DSA, stands with freedom of expression

  • Published at 06:52 pm March 31st, 2021
ERF Economic Reporters Forum

The forum condemned the reported threat by the LR Global Asset Management Company against journalist Niaz Mahmud

The Economic Reporters Forum (ERF) strongly condemned the reported threat by LR Global Asset Management Company to file a lawsuit against Dhaka Tribune journalist Niaz Mahmud, one of its members, under the controversial Digital Security Act (DSA).

As a forum which has over the decades steadfastly upheld the rights of the country's business and economic journalists, they stated that the threat is an assault against freedom of expression, in a statement signed by Sharmeen Rizvy, its president, and SM Rashidul Islam, general secretary. 

Further emphasising their stand against the reported lawsuit, they reconfirmed their beliefs by stating that every aggrieved person, firm, group or organisation has the rights to defend itself from an unlawful reporting or smear campaign. 

They also mentioned their strong stand against any move to use the DSA to target a journalist.

According to the forum, the country's civil society, rights groups, journalist groups and the Editors Council have strong reservations about the DSA and have repeatedly demanded amendments to some of the key clauses of the laws.

International rights groups such as Amnesty International, the Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) have highlighted how the DSA has been used since its enactment in 2018 to muzzle dissent, as well as rightful reporting practices. 

Some rights groups also demanded law be repealed, saying it was being used to target truth-seeking journalists.

They ended their statement by saying they hope LR Global Asset Management Company will reconsider its stand and act as a responsible and morally upright business organisation. 

The ERF stands against any move to silence lawful journalism by any member of the media, the forum added.

LR Global Bangladesh began operations in 2008.

The company launched its first mutual fund in 2010 and is currently managing six mutual funds amounting to about $172 million.

Earlier, the Capital Market Journalists Forum (CMJF) on Sunday vehemently protested the legal notice sent by LR Global to Dhaka Tribune in which it threatened to take legal action under the Digital Security Act against one of its reporters.

LR Global threatened to file a case on March 21 under the DSA against Niaz Mahmud, staff correspondent of the newspaper, for reporting “false and misleading information against them”.

The same threat was issued against the paper's publisher and editor for publishing the report titled ‘LR Global’s American partner calls for actions against its CEO’ on March 16.

The report was based on a letter sent by LR Managers, the 47.7 per cent shareholder of LR Global, to the securities regulator.

Reaz Islam, the chief executive officer of LR Global, was contacted several times before publishing the report, but he did not respond. The call records and text messages have been preserved by Dhaka Tribune.

LR Global had sent in a rejoinder, which was published on March 18. And yet, the asset management firm sent in the legal notice, which was dated March 21.

The asset management firm’s various irregularities, the valuation report fraud and the other issues have been the most talked-about topic in the capital market recently, the CMJF said.

Evidence of this is also found in the investigation report of the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission, it said in the statement.

“It is the job of the media to publish reports on these issues. Such threats are obstacles to the development of free and independent media. It is also against the constitutional right to freedom of the press.”

If LR Global pressed on the matter, the CMJF will be forced to take strict actions, the forum said, adding that it stands beside Mahmud, one of its members.

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