News portal CEO, 22 others held in Bangladesh for ‘fanning rumours’ during massive student protest

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DHAKA, Aug 9 (PTI): Bangladesh police have arrested 23 people including the CEO of an online news portal for allegedly trying to create anarchy by publishing fake news and spreading rumours over the student protest which had left over 1,000 people injured, media reports said on Thursday.

Thousands of students of schools, colleges and universities took to the street on July 29, demanding strict implementation of road safety rules, following the death of two teenage students – a boy and a girl – by a speeding bus.

The unprecedented protests lasted nine days, paralysing the country and leaving over 1,000 people injured in clashes with the riot police.

Yousuf Chowdhury, 40, Chief Executive Officer of ‘Zoom Bangla’, was held for inciting the peaceful safe roads movement by publishing “illogical and irrelevant” photographs of police, Nazmul Islam, additional deputy commissioner of the Cyber Crime Monitoring Team of Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate (DMP) was quoted as saying by The Daily Star.

Twenty-two others, including two students, were also arrested under the Information and Communication Technology Act for spreading rumours on social media during the protest, the report said.

They were arrested for trying to create anarchy by publishing fake news and spreading rumours on social media over the ongoing student protest, it said.

“Zoom Bangla has been practising yellow journalism, which is against the basic norms of journalism for a while now,” Nazmul said.

Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology student Daiyan Alam was arrested for playing a role in turning the ongoing protest into a violent one through spreading rumours on social media, he said.

The officer said that the DMP will strictly continue its operation against spreading rumours online.

Zahid, a student of Bogra Govt Azizul Haque College, was detained for giving posts against the prime minister, road transport and bridges minister, home minister and spreading rumours through Facebook, Nazmul said.

The massive agitation by the students prompted Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Cabinet to approve a tougher transport law and launch a crackdown on reckless driving.

At the height of the protest, students were seen managing Dhaka’s notorious traffic and checking whether drivers of the cars and buses have valid licences and proof of roadworthiness of their vehicles.

The accident had taken place when two buses were racing to pick up passengers on Dhaka’s main Airport Road.

Despite being peaceful initially, the protests turned violent. Buses were torched, hundreds of vehicles vandalised as activists from the ruling Awami League’s student front and transport workers allegedly attacked protesters, journalists, photographers and even the US ambassador’s car during the protests, leaving several injured.

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