Police arrested Samad, a well-known freelance journalist and press freedom activist, for his work with a documentary crew that was preparing a report about Bangladesh for the “Unreported World” series on Britain’s Channel 4. Samad, who is the Bangladesh representative for the Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Sans Frontières, had worked for the documentary team as an interpreter.
On November 25, police had arrested Zaiba Malik, the reporter for the documentary; Bruno Sorrentino, the film’s director and cameraman; and Priscilla Raj, a freelance Bangladeshi journalist who also worked for the documentary team as an interpreter. Samad had gone into hiding after his colleagues’ arrests but was found and detained on November 29. All four journalists were accused of sedition.
Police arrested the journalists for their alleged involvement in “clandestine activities as journalists with an apparent and malicious intent of portraying Bangladesh as an Islamic fanatical country,” said a statement issued by the Bangladeshi government, as reported by the Agence France-Presse news agency.
On December 11, authorities released Malik and Sorrentino and deported them to Britain. The two foreign journalists signed a statement saying they would not produce any reports from their footage gathered in Bangladesh and “expressing regret for the unfortunate situation arising since their arrival in Bangladesh.” However, the Bangladeshi journalists remained in jail. Raj was not released until December 23.
On December 4, while being transported back to prison after attending a court hearing, Samad shouted to journalists out of the window of his van, “I have been subjected to inhuman torture,” according to Bangladeshi press reports.
On December 23, the High Court ordered Samad’s release on bail within 24 hours. However, the next day, government authorities ordered that Samad remain in custody for 30 more days under the Special Powers Act, which allows for the preventive detention of anyone suspected of anti-state activities. On January 14, 2003, the High Court ruled that the government’s order to extend Samad’s detention was illegal and that he should be released. Samad was finally freed from Kashimpur Jail, which is just outside of Dhaka, on January 18.