New York, May 24, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities in Bangladesh to drop sedition charges against Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, the editor and publisher of the now-defunct weekly tabloid Blitz. Choudhury will appear in court tomorrow to apply for an extension of his bail, which he received on April 30 after spending 17 months behind bars.
“The false case against our colleague Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury must be dropped immediately and unconditionally,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “After spending 17 months in prison for a crime he did not commit, it is time for Choudhury to be free from these harsh charges and for him to be allowed to work again as a journalist.”
The charges against Choudhury stem from his attempt to travel to Israel in November 2003 to speak at a conference hosted by the Hebrew Writers Association. Bangladesh has no formal relations with Israel, and travel to Israel is illegal for Bangladeshi citizens. He was initially charged with passport violations, which were later dropped, and was then formally charged with sedition in February 2004. As evidence for the sedition charges brought against Choudhury three months after his arrest, an airport security officer cited articles written by the journalist about the rise of fundamentalism in Bangladesh.
According to CPJ research, Bangladesh is one of the most violent countries for the press in Asia. Journalists are frequently threatened, attacked, and even murdered in retaliation for their reporting; three journalists were killed there last year.