Selim Akash, a reporter for the Bangladeshi satellite broadcaster BanglaTV and news website Jago News, was arrested in Amman on April 14. Akash, a Bangladeshi citizen who isn’t registered as journalist in Jordan, has been charged with violating telecommunications and anti-terrorism laws and the Interior Ministry issued a deportation order for him. As of November 2020, he had not been deported.
Akash’s legal name is Kabir Hossain. Using the pen name Selim Akash, he covers news concerning the Bangladeshi community in Jordan. He has also reported on activities and officials in the Bangladeshi Embassy in Amman. CPJ has been unable to determine the length of time Akash has lived in Jordan.
On April 14, three men in plainclothes who did not identify themselves arrested Akash in front of his house in Amman, according to a report by Jago News and a member of the journalist’s family who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity at the time, citing fear of reprisal.
The relative said that three days later Akash called his family and said the men were Jordanian security officers and that he was being held in As-Salt prison northwest of Amman. In mid-May, Akash was transferred to Qafqafa Prison, 64 kilometers (40 miles) north of Jordan’s capital Amman, the relative said.
The relative said that Akash has been charged with violating Jordan’s telecommunications and anti-terrorism laws, but did not know which specific provisions he was alleged to have broken. The relative said that police told Akash that he was detained for posting news on Facebook, though didn’t cite any specific posts. However, the relative believes that authorities targeted Akash over his news broadcast for Bangla TV, also posted on his personal Facebook account, on Bangladeshi migrant workers in Jordan who could not earn money during the COVID-19 lockdown. The Ministry of Interior has issued a deportation order for Akash, the relative told CPJ.
According to the family member, Akash was not registered as a journalist with the Jordan Media Commission, and was not on a press visa, saying he had been unable to update his working papers due to Jordan’s strict rules regarding migrant workers.
According to a report by the Beirut-based press freedom group SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, Akash’s arrest was made at the request of the Bangladeshi embassy in Amman. The report quotes lawyer Shadi al-Natour, who said he served as Akash’s lawyer until June, when the embassy appointed its own lawyer to the case.
In a September 10 email to CPJ signed on behalf of Bangladeshi Ambassador Nahida Sobhan, the embassy confirmed that it had appointed a lawyer to represent Akash. The embassy has not answered CPJ’s questions sent repeatedly over email about the charges facing Akash, his deportation order, or whether the embassy had ordered the journalist’s arrest.
Akash has had multiple scheduled court appearances delayed. Al-Natour told the SKeyes that the first hearing, scheduled for June 14, was delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions on courts and another hearing set for June 22 was delayed because of a lack of interpreter, without providing further details. The Bangladeshi Embassy told CPJ via email that a hearing scheduled for September 3 had been adjourned without a decision until September 16. CPJ has been unable to determine whether there have been any additional hearings or decisions in the case since.
According to Linda al-Kalash, executive director of the Jordanian group Tamkeen for Legal Aid and Human Rights, Akash was previously arrested in 2018 for breaking Jordanian labor and residence laws. She said he was released and given 15 days to secure a work permit, which he failed to do. She said she believes that Jordanian authorities have combined the past immigration charge with the 2020 charge of violating the telecommunications law to create the current case against Akash.
CPJ emailed the Jordanian Justice Ministry in September to inquire about the exact charges against Akash, as well as his health and the status of his case, but did not receive a response.