U.K.-based exiled Bangladeshi journalist Zulkarnain Saer Khan told the Committee to Protect Journalists that the Bangladeshi tabloid Weekly Blitz has since late September published a series of articles falsely accusing him of acting as an operative for the Palestinian militant group Hamas and engaging in criminal activities. The articles have been reviewed by CPJ.
Several European outlets republished the allegations, citing the pro-government Weekly Blitz.
On October 23, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor of the Weekly Blitz, published a separate article in the right-wing digital media outlet HinduPost, reviewed by CPJ, alleging Saer Khan had been deported from Hungary to the United Kingdom, where he was “funding and promoting pro-Hamas and anti-Israel rallies.”
Saer Khan, an independent investigative journalist, told CPJ by phone that he denied all allegations, which also extended to accusations of involvement in drug trafficking and fraud. He said he has been targeted in a campaign that seeks to discredit his work and could potentially endanger his safety.
Saer Khan said he believed he was being targeted in retaliation for his upcoming report on alleged high-level government corruption in Bangladesh to be published by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). On September 25, two days before the latest round of Weekly Blitz articles against him, the journalist sent a series of emails requesting comment from the subjects of his investigative article.
In recent years, the Weekly Blitz has repeatedly published articles, reviewed by CPJ, accusing Saer Khan, along with other journalists critical of the Bangladesh government, of criminal activities.
On March 17, four unidentified men beat Mahinur Khan, Saer Khan’s brother, with iron rods in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, accusing the latter of “writing about the PM [prime minister]” and “against the government.” As of November 22, no suspects had been held accountable, Saer Khan said.
Choudhury told CPJ via email that the Weekly Blitz stood by its reporting and was unaware of Saer Khan’s upcoming report for the OCCRP.