Bangladesh arrests three journalists, raids news outlet

New York, January 17, 2014–Police in Bangladesh arrested three journalists on Thursday during a raid on the Dhaka offices of the newspaper Daily Inqilab, according to news reports.

The three journalists–Robiullah Robi, the paper’s news editor; Rafiq Mohammad, the paper’s deputy chief correspondent; and Ahmed Atik, diplomatic correspondent–were arrested under the Information and Communication Technology Act, according to news reports. Police also seized printing equipment and computers and sealed off access to the paper’s printing press, reports said. It is unclear if the outlet will be able to print newspapers, but the website is still active, according to reports.

Daily Inqilab is known for publishing reports critical of the ruling Awami League, Mainul Islam Khan, co-director of the press freedom group Bangladesh Centre for Development, Journalism and Communication, told CPJ by email.

Authorities accused the newspaper of publishing “false and fabricated” news in a front-page report on Thursday that claimed forces from neighboring India had assisted the Bangladeshi army in quelling violence in Bangladesh’s Satkhira district ahead of the January 5 elections. The Awami League declared a victory in the elections despite boycott from opposition groups, news accounts said.

The Daily Inqilab article reportedly cited social networking sites as well as a communique between New Delhi and Dhaka. Indian and Bangladeshi officials denied all of the allegations, and said the communique that had been printed in the article had been digitally doctored, reports said.

The Dhaka police said that the paper’s news report had damaged the image of the country and law enforcement agencies, news accounts reported. Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu said today that the Daily Inqilab report was intended to create a riot and damage relations between the two countries, reports said. Opposition groups in Bangladesh often criticize the Awami League for its perceived close ties to India.

“The government has leveled very serious allegations against the journalists that should be independently investigated,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz.  “We call for the journalists to be released on bail and for the matter to be thoroughly adjudicated.”

Last week, a Dhaka court sentenced Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor of the tabloid Weekly Blitz, to seven years in prison on charges of harming the country’s interests for “intentionally writing distorting and damaging materials,” reports said.

At least one journalist was being held behind bars in Bangladesh when CPJ conducted its annual prison census on December 1. Mahmudur Rahman, a pro-opposition editor for the Bengali-language daily Amar Desh, was arrested in April on charges of publishing false and derogatory information that incited religious tension, sedition, and unlawful publication. The trial is ongoing.

  • For more data and analysis, visit CPJ’s Bangladesh page.