IFJ Demands Charges to be Dropped Against Journalists in Bangladesh

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, today called for the Supreme Court of Bangladesh to resist political pressure, after five journalists critical of the ruling Bangladesh National Party (BNP) were implicated in extortion.

The journalists from Kushtia surrendered to the Court and were granted interim bail by Jusstice Abdur Rashid and Justice M Fazlur Rahman of the High Court Division of the Supreme Court after they pleaded innocent to the charges and argued the case was politically motivated.

"The IFJ stand in solidarity with the five Bangladeshi journalists and demand the criminal charges against them be immediately dropped,” said IFJ President Christopher Warren.

“This case must not be used as a political tool to punish journalists who have uncovered corruption and are critical of the government: if this was to happen it would completely undermine the rights of a free press,” said Warren.

Those granted bail were Gazi Mahbub Rahman, editor of local daily Ajker Alo, and acting editor Jamaluddin Haidery; Tariqul Huq Tariq; correspondent of daily Prothom Alo, Shamsul Alam; correspondent of Ajker Kagoj, and Hassan Zahid, staff correspondent of Manabzamin.

The journalists allege they were falsely implicated in extortion charges by BNP politician Shahidul Islam, after they published a story reporting on corruption within Shahidul’s cadres.

The court granted the journalists interim bail of three months and asked the government to show cause why they should not be allowed ordinary bail.

On July 23, two of the bailed journalists along with five other Bangladeshi journalists filed a police report against MP Shahidul Islam and his cadres after the journalists were threatened with death following a report which revealed BNP men had attacked and injured 50 protesters at a rally.

“The government must ensure the security of journalists in order to guarantee protection of press freedom in the country. The IFJ demands that journalists should be able to operate in an environment free from intimidation, and the courts must protect this right," said Warren.

An IFJ report Courage and Censorship: Journalists and Press Freedom in South Asia 2004-2005, revealed Bangladesh to be one of the most dangerous places for journalists in Asia because they were targeted for reporting on the country's pervasive corruption, political violence and organised crime.

From May 2004 to May 2005, 6 journalists were killed, 320 were tortured, 55 were injured in assaults and 405 received death threats.

For further information, contact Christopher Warren on +61 411 757 668
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries