The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the ongoing imprisonment of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, the editor and publisher of the tabloid weekly Blitz, who was jailed on sedition charges. We call for his immediate and unconditional release.
Choudhury was arrested seven months ago today, on November 29, 2003, at the Zia International Airport in the capital, Dhaka, while on his way to Israel to participate in a conference with the Hebrew Writers Association. Airport security officers detained Choudhury on suspicion of espionage, and he was charged with passport violations, according to local press reports. Bangladesh has no formal relations with Israel, and it is illegal for citizens to travel there.
Three months later, on February 24, Choudhury was formally charged with sedition, according to his family. As evidence, Abdul Harif, the officer in charge of airport security, cited articles written by Choudhury about the rise of fundamentalism in Bangladesh that allegedly showed Bangladesh in a critical light.
The passport violation charges against Choudhury were dropped on June 1 because he had already served the mandated prison sentence during his ongoing detention, according to his family. Courts have rejected the family’s continuous appeals for Choudhury’s release on bail.
Choudhury is being held in the Dhaka Central Jail. He has been denied medical treatment for eye problems that may result in glaucoma, despite two rulings from the High Court this spring ordering that he be allowed to see a doctor, according to his family.
Earlier this year, Choudhury’s family sent Your Excellency a letter asking you to help resolve his case and to order his release. In response, they received a copy of a letter from your office to the home minister’s office dated June 7. In the letter, your office requested that the necessary steps be taken to expedite Choudhury’s case, according to Choudhury’s family.
However, Choudhury should not have been charged with sedition in the first place. Journalists should never be jailed for their work, even when they write about sensitive or unpopular issues, as did Choudhury. CPJ urges Your Excellency to do everything within your power to ensure that he is released from custody and can continue his work.
We thank you for your attention to this urgent matter and await your response.