Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliates and partners in the South
Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) caution against drastic action in a case
involving three journalists from the Bangla language daily Jugantor,
after defamation charges were laid against them by a Minister in the Bangladesh
Editor Salma Islam, executive
editor Saiful Alam and reporter Jashim Chowdhury were issued a summons by the
Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate on September 13, after Bangladesh’s Minister for Shipping,
Shahjahan Khan, filed a defamation case against the trio.
This followed the publication of two
reports in Jugantor which questioned the high expenses incurred by the
Ministry of Shipping in foreign travel by the minister and his political
The journalists have been ordered to
appear in the magistrate’s court on October 18.
“The IFJ is concerned that this
quick recourse to criminal defamation action has a chilling effect on free and
fair journalism, and does little to advance the public interest,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
“We urge Minister Khan and his
political associates to deal with any complaints via independent institutions
such as the Press Council of Bangladesh, and thereby set a good example and
precedent for the amicable settlement of grievances about media content.”
The IFJ and SAMSN also express
concern over the continuing detention of Mohammad Ekramul Haq, who was arrested
on July 31 on charges of extortion.
Initially remanded for two days on
charges filed by a local businessman, he was ordered detained for a further two
days on identical charges filed by the leader of an association of government
The Sheersha News web portal and the
associated Sheersha Kagoj newspaper, of which Haq is the editor, have
since shut down due to a drying up of financial support.
“The IFJ urges that Haq’s case be
reviewed by the appropriate judicial authorities, and action taken to ensure
journalists are not held on flimsy charges over extended periods,” Park said.
“The detention of Haq not only
violates his rights but, in a situation of weakly institutionalised newspaper
industry, has a serious impact on media diversity and choice in Bangladesh.”
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
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