Bangladesh: CPJ urges court to dismiss sedition charges against journalist

New York, April 4, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Bangladeshi authorities to dismiss sedition charges against journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury whose trial begins April 5 in Dhaka’s Additional Metropolitan Session Court. Sedition carries the death penalty.

Choudhury, editor of the Bangladesh tabloid weekly Blitz, was originally charged with passport violations after he tried to travel to Israel in November 2003 to participate in a conference with the Hebrew Writers Association. Bangladesh has no formal relations with Israel, and it is illegal for Bangladeshi citizens to travel there. Those charges were dropped and sedition charges brought in February 2004. In support of the sedition charges, court authorities cited articles written by Choudhury about the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Bangladesh. Choudhury has also written articles against anti-Israeli attitudes in Muslim countries and about the spread of Islamist militancy in Bangladesh. Choudhury had spent 17 months in jail before his release on bail in May 2005.

“Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury’s journalism has clearly angered the authorities in Bangladesh. But using sedition charges to silence a writer just because he is seen as controversial calls into question Bangladesh’s commitment to democracy,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We urge the court to dismiss these charges and call on the government to refrain from using this draconian law to stifle public discussion.”

Choudhury has kept his editing position at Blitz, but he told CPJ that he remains under pressure from the government and extremist groups for his writing and his perceived association with Israel.