New York, June 1, 2020 — Jordanian authorities should immediately release Bangladeshi journalist Selim Akash and drop any charges against him, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On April 14, three men in plainclothes arrested Akash, a reporter for the Bangladeshi satellite broadcaster BanglaTV and news website Jago News, in front of his house in Amman, according to a report by Jago News and a member of the journalist’s family who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
The family member said the men did not identify themselves, did not state a reason for the arrest, and did not say where they were taking Akash.
On April 17, Akash called his family and said the men had been Jordanian security officers, and that he was being held in a prison in As-Salt, northwest of Amman, the relative said.
The relative said that Akash has been charged with violating Jordan’s telecommunications and anti-terrorism laws, but did not know which specific provisions he was alleged to have broken. The Ministry of Interior has issued a deportation order against Akash, but no date has been yet set for his deportation, the relative told CPJ.
The relative said that Akash was transferred to Qafqafa Prison in mid-May, and that he has been unable to see a lawyer while in custody.
“If Jordan is to even pretend that it is a country that takes the rule of law seriously, it cannot detain journalists for weeks on vague charges and without access to a lawyer,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “Authorities should release Selim Akash immediately and drop their bogus terrorism charges against him.”
“Police just told him that he was detained for posting news on Facebook,” Akash’s relative said, saying authorities did not cite any specific posts.
The most recent news story Akash published before his arrest was a news broadcast, which he also posted on his personal Facebook account, on the situation of Bangladeshi migrant workers in Jordan, who could not earn money during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The family member added that Akash was not registered as a journalist with the Jordan Media Commission, and was not on a press visa, saying he had been unable to update his working papers due to Jordan’s strict migrant worker regulations.
Today, Akash’s relative told CPJ that a court date in the journalist’s case had been set for June 14.
CPJ emailed Jordan’s Interior Ministry and Public Security Directorate for comment, but did not receive any replies. CPJ also emailed BanglaTV for comment, but no one replied.