April 4, 2002
Her Excellency Khaleda Zia
Prime Minister, People’s Republic of Bangladesh
Office of the Prime Minister
Via facsimile: 011-88-02-811-3244
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is alarmed by your government’s ban on the April 4 edition of the Hong Kongbased weekly Far Eastern Economic Review.
The cover story of the edition, “Bangladesh: Cocoon of Terror,” described the country as besieged by “Islamic fundamentalism, religious intolerance, militant Muslim groups with links to international terrorist groups, a powerful military with ties to the militants, the mushrooming of Islamic schools churning out radical students, middle-class apathy, poverty and lawlessness.”
In response, the Information Ministry called the article a “malicious report” that would “create hatred and division among the people of Bangladesh.” On April 3, the ministry declared the publication, sale, reprinting, and preservation of the magazine to be illegal, according to Bangladeshi and international news reports.
While the April 4 edition is not available on newsstands in the country, people in Bangladesh have been able to access it online.
Your Excellency’s government has already responded to the article’s claims in a letter to the Review that ran in its April 11 edition. Shafi Ahmed, the Bangladeshi consul general in Hong Kong, wrote, “Your description of Bangladesh as a Cocoon of Terror is at best a figment of someone’s wild imagination…Your article could only be described as being motivated, if not by malicious intentions, then by reasons best known to you.”
Banning this widely respected regional publication simply because your government does not agree with its reporting constitutes blatant censorship. As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues worldwide, we respectfully urge Your Excellency to lift the ban on the Review immediately and to allow for its sale and distribution within Bangladesh.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We await your response.