New York, October 22, 2020— Bangladeshi authorities should immediately release reporter Ruhul Amin Gazi and let him work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Yesterday evening, police officers in the Hatirjheel neighborhood of Dhaka, the capital, arrested Gazi, a reporter with the Daily Sangram newspaper, according to news reports.
The arrest came after Metropolitan Magistrate Debdash Chandra Adhikary rejected the journalist’s bail petition in an ongoing criminal investigation, according to those reports. Gazi and Daily Sangram editor Abul Asad have been under investigation for sedition since a complaint was filed in December 2019 over an article calling Abdul Quader Molla, an opposition figure executed in 2013 for war crimes, a “martyr,” according to news reports.
If charged and convicted of sedition under the Digital Security Act or the Bangladeshi penal code, the journalists could face a fine of up to 50 million taka (US$600,000) and up to life in prison, according to those laws. Asad has been detained since December 2019 in relation to the sedition complaint, as CPJ has documented.
“Authorities in Bangladesh must stop weaponizing the country’s laws to jail and harass journalists,” said Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia researcher. “The investigation into journalists Ruhul Amin Gazi and Abul Asad should be dropped, they should be released immediately, and members of the press should not be detained and persecuted for their work.”
The arrest warrant was issued for Gazi after he failed to appear in a number of court hearings relating to the sedition complaint, the police deputy commissioner of Dhaka’s Tejgaon district, Harun ur Rashid, told the Dhaka Tribune.
The Daily Sangram is supportive of Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist political party, according to news reports.
CPJ has documented the arrests and charges of numerous journalists under the Digital Security Act in recent months.
CPJ emailed the Tejgaon police for comment, but did not immediately receive any reply.