IFJ Condemns Bangladesh Over Torture Claims as As Fears for Jailed Journalist Increase

The International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest organisation of journalists, renewed calls for the release of Saleem Samad, a journalist being held in Bangladesh over what the IFJ calls "spiteful victimisation" by the authorities.

He has been imprisoned since November 29, despite a decision of the High Court to release him on bail, and long after the release of the team from British Channel 4 that Samad had been working for.

"This arrest and detention is illegal, unfair, and just a piece of spiteful victimisation against a colleague who was assisting others to do their work safely and professionally," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary today.

The IFJ is calling for a full investigation into reports that Samad and other journalists have been tortured while in custody. "Bangladesh stands accused of violation of fundamental human rights over this case," said White. "It is abhorrent to learn that Samad and other colleagues are the victims of brutal treatment when in the hands of the authorities."

Saleem Samad, a Bangladeshi national, was arrested for his work with a team from British Channel 4. He was assisting reporter Zaiba Malik and cameraman Bruno Sorrentino, who were preparing a documentary on the political situation in Bangladesh. Malik and Sorrentino were arrested in November, accused by the authorities of spreading anti-state propaganda. They were released and deported two weeks later. Another Bangladeshi journalist working as a translator for the British team, Priscilla Raj, was also arrested and released on bail in December.

One of the team's interviewees, freelance journalist and human rights activist Shahriar Kabir was arrested on December 8 and released last week, after the High Court declared his detention illegal. Both Kabir and Samad have been held under the Special Powers Act, which allows the authorities to detain anyone suspected of anti-state activities for 90 days without trial.

"We welcome the release of Kabir," said Aidan White, "but we remain seriously concerned for the safety of Samad, particularly after hearing reports that he and Kabir have been tortured. Samad should be freed immediately."

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The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries