Washington, D.C., May 19, 2017–The Bangladeshi Foreign Ministry should immediately and publicly rescind its instructions to the country’s embassies to monitor journalists traveling abroad, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
In a letter sent to foreign missions on May 17, the ministry said journalists involved in activities that go “against the interest of the country” must be identified and reported to the ministry. The letter was signed by the director general of the ministry’s External Publicity Wing, Md. Lutfor Rahman, and cited a recommendation from the Parliamentary Standing Committee, which had expressed concern about journalists abroad giving “wrong information on Bangladesh in the international arena.”
It was not immediately clear what prompted the concern. The Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment, and Rahman did not answer CPJ’s phone call.
“This directive turns Bangladeshi diplomats into media spies,” Robert Mahoney, CPJ’s deputy executive director, said from New York. “It is not the job of government to determine whether journalists are serving the interests of their country through their reporting. This order should be rescinded immediately.”
At a press briefing yesterday, Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali said that he had not seen the directive, but that journalists would not face any obstacles in their work or their ability to travel abroad, according to Dhaka’s Daily Star newspaper. The foreign minister also said he considered it necessary to monitor whether anyone was engaging in activities that go “against the country’s image and interest,” according to the Daily Star.
CPJ research shows a deteriorating climate for free expression in Bangladesh.