Defamation Laws In Bangladesh
Chapter 21 Section 499 of Bangladesh’s penal code, “whoever by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publish any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having the reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the former person will be liable to the latter.”
The statue also outlines a list of exceptions. Accordingly, it is not defamation:
(1) to impute anything which is true concerning any person, if it be for public good;
(2) to express in good faith any opinion respecting the conduct of a public servant in the discharge of his public functions or respecting his character;
(3) to express in good faith any opinion respecting the conduct of any person touching any public question;
(4) to publish a substantially true report of the proceedings of a Court of Justice;
(5) to express in good faith any opinion respecting the merits of any case, civil or criminal, which has been decided by a Court of Justice;
(6) to express in good faith any opinion respecting the merits of any performance which its author has submitted to the judgment of the public;
(7) in a person having over another any authority, either conferred by law or arising out of a lawful contract made with the other, to pass in good faith any censure on the conduct of the latter in matters to which such lawful authority relates;
(8) to prefer in good faith an accusation against any person to any of those who have lawful authority over that person with respect to the subject matter of accusation;
(9) to make an imputation on the character of another, provided that the imputation be made in good faith for the protection of the interest of the person making it, or for the public good;
(10) to convey a caution, in good faith, to one person against another, provided that such caution be intended for the good of the person to whom it is conveyed.
Imprisonment may not exceed two years.
Bangladesh takes a very relaxed stance when it comes to outlining allowable damages. Instead, the fines and punishments for each case are “determined by the principles of justice, equity and good conscience.”
Media Libel Laws & Stalled Reform
While the country’s constitution provides for freedom of expression subject to “reasonable restrictions,” the press is constrained by national security legislation, sedition and criminal libel laws. Journalists can be and are charged with contempt of court; they can also be arrested under the 1974 Special Powers Act—which allows detentions of up to 90 days without trial—for stories that are critical of government officials or policies.
Draft amendments to the criminal code that were approved by the cabinet in December 2009 would outlaw the arrest of editors, publishers, journalists, or writers in connection with cases of defamation filed against them; however, this reform had not yet been approved and arrests stemming from defamation charges continue to occur at the time of this writing.