In Bangladesh, a prominent journalist is taken in military raid

New York, May 11, 2007—Plainclothes officers raided the Dhaka home of prominent journalist and human rights advocate Tasneem Khalil early this morning in an action that the Committee to Protect Journalists called “an indication of the fragile state of press freedom in Bangladesh.”

Four men identifying themselves as a “joint task force” came to Khalil’s house after midnight and said they were arresting the journalist and taking him to Sangsad Bhavan army camp in Dhaka, according to Human Rights Watch, which employed Khalil as a part-time consultant. Khalil, 26, is assistant editor for the Dhaka-based English-language newspaper The Daily Star, and has worked as a stringer for CNN.

“The apparent military arrest of such a prominent and well-respected journalist as Tasneem Khalil without any stated cause is an indication of the fragile state of press freedom in Bangladesh,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We are alarmed by the circumstances of his detention, and we call for his release.”

Efforts to locate Khalil this morning were unsuccessful, his wife told reporters. The men, who did not present a warrant or accuse him of any crime, also took his computers, notebooks, and other documents, she said. “It is an emergency; we can arrest anyone,” one of the men said, according to Human Rights Watch.

Khalil, who also writes regularly for his blog, has been an outspoken critic of military abuses under the state of emergency declared in January. “At first the military-backed civilian government was welcome,” he told The Washington Post in March. “But now there is a vacuum.”

Daily Star Editor Mahfuz Anam said today that Khalil’s detention was related to blog writings and other electronic messages. Following my discussions with the authorities and because of the caretaker government’s commitment to the policy of freedom of the media, it was agreed that he would be released tonight,” Anam said, according to the news Web site bdnews24.

Thousands of people have been detained since January, according to human rights groups. Those jailed include Atiqullah Khan Masud, the editor of the popular Bengali-language daily Janakantha, accused by police of corruption, criminal activities, and “tarnishing the country’s image abroad” through his newspaper’s reporting.