Atiqullah Khan Masud

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Officials from Bangladesh ‘s Rapid Action Battalion, an army crime and terrorist unit, escorted Masud, who is the owner and publisher of the Bengali-language daily Janakantha, from his office during a raid in March 2007. Police accused him of illegally receiving foreign donations to publish the newspaper, according to BulBul Manjurul Ahsan, the president of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists. Masud was denied bail and sent to Dhaka Central Jail under the Special Powers Act.

Multiple corruption allegations related to Masud’s other business interests were subsequently added to the charge sheet as part of an anticorruption campaign waged by the interim government. News reports said Masud was facing up to 15 separate charges.

The apparent connection between Masud’s initial arrest and Janakantha was cause for concern in the media community. Masud had been heavily involved in the newspaper, one of the few local publications openly discussing the state of emergency declared in January 2007. Janakantha, which had been warned by the government not to be so outspoken, was crippled by Masud’s arrest, according to local press freedom groups. The government denied that the detention was related to Masud’s newspaper work.

In March 2008, a judge in charge of a special court in Dhaka responsible for high-profile cases brought by the Anti-Corruption Commission jailed Masud for at least seven years, according to news reports. That sentence related to allegations that Masud had conspired to skim funds from a fraudulent building project. The Janakantha funding charge was still outstanding in late 2008.

Several journalists from prominent dailies issued a statement demanding Masud’s release on medical grounds in September 2008. A hospital was treating him in late year for several ailments, including heart disease, according to a report on the Web site of the New Age newspaper.