The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is
alarmed at contempt of court convictions handed down by the Bangladesh Supreme
Court against a reporter, publisher and acting editor of the daily newspaper Amar Desh.
contempt petition was moved by two members of the bar after Amar Desh carried a story on April 21
suggesting that the Supreme Court bench was predisposed towards making
decisions that were favourable to the incumbent government.
Waliullah Noman has been sentenced to one month in prison and a fine of
Bangladesh Taka (BDT) 10,000 (about USD 150), and acting editor Mahmudur Rahman
has been sentenced to six months in prison and fined BDT 100,000. Publisher
Hashmat Ali was fined (BDT) 10,000. All three would have to serve jail terms if
they were to default on the fines.
Amar Desh Deputy Editor Syed Abdal Ahmad and News Editor Mujtahid Faruqui were
discharged by the court after they tendered full and unconditional apologies.
reports in Bangladesh
indicate that this is the first conviction for contempt handed down by the
country’s highest court. The verdict, delivered by the full bench of the
Bangladesh Supreme Court’s Appellate Division, leaves no options for appeal.
scheduled to appear before the same bench on August 24 to face contempt charges
arising from a separate report “Farce in the name of an independent judiciary”
published in the newspaper on May 10.
leading English language daily, observed that the contempt convictions do
nothing to enhance the “dignity of the judiciary”. Referring to the institution-building
process underway since Bangladesh
returned to rule by a civilian elected government less than two years back, the
editorial observes: “What we need now is a wise leadership of the Supreme
judiciary towards strengthening all institutions that bring more freedom to
individuals and accountability of all institutions, including the judiciary”.
The IFJ Asia-Pacific reminds the judiciary in Bangladesh
of the need to promote a critical and well-informed discourse through the media
as a part of the process of building robust institutions in an emerging
aware that journalists’ organisations and press freedom bodies in Bangladesh are
divided on this issue, since Mahmudur Rahman has been associated with the party
that is currently in opposition and he is seen by many to be pursuing
oppositional politics through his newly acquired media interests,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
this conviction arises from an article published in a newspaper that has been
in existence for a number of years. In itself, the article cannot be construed
to constitute a threat to the administration of justice.”
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
represents more than 600,000 journalists in 125 countries
IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific