On November 10, 2020, the Dhaka High Court granted the bail of Jamal Mir, a freelance journalist who had been detained since May, but on November 15, a chamber judge in the Bangladesh Supreme Court’s appellate division blocked that order, keeping the journalist in detention, according to court documents reviewed by CPJ and Rezaur Rehman Lenin, executive director of a Dhaka-based human rights organization Law Life Culture, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.
In April 2020, Mir, a freelance reporter who contributes to the privately owned Team 24 news portal and news website BanglaNews24, joined a group of reporters in covering an alleged prostitution ring in the southern town of Barguna, according to news reports.
A video depicting the journalists entering the area where the ring was based and recording the alleged sex workers was uploaded to Team 24 and Mir’s personal YouTube page in April, according to Lenin.
On May 7, police in Barguna arrested Mir at his office in response to a defamation complaint filed by a woman who appeared in the video, who alleged that Mir violated the Digital Security Act, as well as trespassing and extortion clauses of the penal code, by entering the premises without permission, according to police documents that CPJ reviewed. The complaint was filed by a woman identified as “Lamia,” according to reports.
A Barguna court sent Mir to jail on May 7, Lenin said. Five other journalists were named in the complaint and detained for about one week before being released on bail, Lenin told CPJ.
Mir was granted bail by the Dhaka High Court on November 10, but on November 12, government prosecutors filed an appeal to block that order to the Supreme Court’s appellate division, according to court documents reviewed by CPJ.
On November 15, a chamber judge granted an eight-week stay on the order, Lenin said. Mir’s lawyers intend to ask the appellate division to re-evaluate its decision, he said.
If charged and convicted, the maximum penalties under those accusations include up to life in prison or an unspecified fine. No charge sheet had been filed in the case as of November 20, Lenin told CPJ.
Sufia Khatun, the lawyer who filed the request for the stay order, did not immediately respond to CPJ’s request for comment sent via messaging app. CPJ emailed the attorney general’s office for comment, but did not immediately receive any response.
CPJ was unable to find contact information for Lamia.