Bangladeshi reporter Jamal Mir was arrested on May 7, 2020, on accusations that his reporting on an alleged prostitution ring constituted defamation, trespassing, and extortion.
In April 2020, Mir, a freelance journalist 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 featuring alleged sex workers was uploaded to Team 24 and Mir’s personal YouTube page in April, according to Rezaur Rehman Lenin, a Dhaka-based human rights consultant for the U.N. Resident Coordinator’s Office and human rights activist, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview. In the video, journalists film as they enter the area where the alleged ring was based.
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 has reviewed.
If charged and convicted, the maximum penalties under those accusations include up to life in prison or an unspecified fine.
The police complaint was filed by a woman identified as “Lamia,” according to reports.
Five other journalists were named in the complaint and detained for about one week before being released on bail, Lenin told CPJ. A Barguna court sent Mir to jail on May 7, Lenin said.
No charge sheet had been filed in the case as of November 2020, Lenin said.
On November 10, 2020, the Dhaka High Court granted Mir bail, Lenin said. 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.
CPJ called and messaged the Barguna police for comment in late 2020 but did not receive any responses.
Sufia Khatun, the lawyer who filed the request for the stay order, did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment via WhatsApp. 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.