Police raid newspaper office, arrest editor in Bangladesh

New York, August 21, 2014–Bangladeshi authorities should immediately release the editor of a daily newspaper who has been held for two days without charge, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Police raided the Dhaka offices of the Daily Inqilab on Tuesday and arrested Rabiullah Robi, the paper’s news editor, according to news accounts. A court remanded Robi into police custody for five days. He has been accused of violating the country’s Informational and Communication Technology Act in connection with a story published by the paper on Monday in the print edition and on its website, the report said. No official charges have been filed, according to Mainul Islam Khan of the Bangladesh Centre for Development, Journalism and Communication.

The story, called “A police official enjoying unchallenged authority using the Prime Minister’s name,” alleged that Assistant Inspector-General Pralay Kumar Joardar abused his authority in recruiting and transferring officials at police headquarters and in his selection of officers participating in UN peacekeeping missions, according to reports. The story also alleged that Joardar, a member of Bangladesh’s Hindu minority and a former official under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, had created an “unofficial Hindu league” in the police force of a country that is predominantly Muslim, reports said.

Joardar denied the allegations and said the report was baseless, defamatory, and tantamount to character assassination, according to news reports. On Tuesday, he began legal proceedings against the paper’s publisher, reporter, editor, and Robi, accusing them of “hurting religious sentiments” and “attempting to cause disorder within the administration,” local reports said. Police officials said they would be arresting the others accused in connection with the story, reports said.

The Daily Inqilab is aligned with Islamist parties and often publishes reports that are critical of the ruling Awami League.

“Journalists should not be imprisoned for reports deemed erroneous or false by authorities,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz. “Any such dispute should be adjudicated in a civil court.”

Robi was arrested earlier this year along with Rafiq Mohammad, the paper’s deputy chief correspondent, and Ahmed Atik, the paper’s diplomatic correspondent, and accused of violating the Information and Communication Technology Act. At the time, police seized the paper’s printing equipment and computers and sealed off access to the paper’s printing press, reports said. The journalists were released on bail, Khan of the Bangladesh Centre for Development, Journalism and Communication, told CPJ. It is unclear whether they were charged. The paper continued to publish.

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