New York, January 21, 2003—Four days after the High Court in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, ordered his release, journalist and press freedom activist Saleem Samad was freed on Saturday, January 18.
Police had arrested Samad on November 29, 2002, for his work with a documentary crew that was preparing a report on Bangladesh for the “Unreported World” series on Britain’s Channel 4. Samad, a prominent free-lance journalist and the Bangladesh representative for the Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Sans Frontières, had worked for the documentary team as an interpreter.
On November 25, police arrested Zaiba Malik, the reporter for the documentary; Bruno Sorrentino, the film’s director and cameraman; and Priscilla Raj, a free-lance Bangladeshi journalist who had also worked for the documentary team as an interpreter. All four journalists were accused of sedition.
Both Raj and Samad have said they were tortured in police custody. Raj said her interrogators used electric shocks to compel her to give evidence against her colleagues, and Samad said an officer beat his knees repeatedly with a wooden baton when he denied police accusations.
Police arrested the journalists for their alleged involvement in “clandestine activities as journalists with an apparent and malicious intent of portraying Bangladesh as an Islamic fanatical country,” said a statement issued by the Bangladeshi government, as reported by the Agence France-Presse news agency.
On December 8, Shahriar Kabir, a journalist and human rights activists whom the crew had interviewed, was also arrested.
On December 11, authorities released Malik and Sorrentino and deported them to Britain. Raj was released on December 23, and Kabir was released on January 7. Samad was the last of the group to be freed.