New York, March 8, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists is troubled by the arrest of Atiqullah Khan Masud, editor and publisher of the popular Bengali-language daily Janakantha, in a military raid on the Dhaka newspaper’s office Wednesday night. Bangladeshi police today accused Masud of corruption, criminal activities, and “tarnishing the country’s image abroad” through his newspaper’s reporting, according to local news reports.
“We’re concerned that security forces in Bangladesh have been given carte blanche to make arrests in the ongoing anti-corruption drive, and that this power has been used to punish a critic of the interim government,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Atiqullah Khan Masud should not be in jail for the outspoken reporting of Janakantha.”
More than 300 military personnel raided the newspaper office on Wednesday night, Executive Editor Borshan Ahmed told Agence France-Presse. Ahmed and a colleague accompanied security forces as they brought Masud to his house and searched it.
Masud appeared tonight in a Dhaka court, where he was denied bail. Police accused him of patronizing criminal activity, corruption, and “carrying out propaganda against the caretaker government,” according to the Dhaka-based Daily Star newspaper. He was sent to Dhaka Central Jail for a 30-day detention.
Janakantha has published articles questioning military involvement in the caretaker government, which was established in October. On March 4, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) detained Masud briefly but said his detention had been a mistake, according to the Daily Star.
Masud’s arrest on Wednesday came amid an anti-corruption drive by the interim government that has targeted several high-profile businessmen and politicians. Sixty politicians, including 13 former ministers, have been arrested in raids that began when President Iajuddin Ahmed declared a state of emergency in January, according to The Associated Press. The son of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia was also arrested on Wednesday night.
Politics in Bangladesh have long been plagued by widespread corruption.