World Journalists Accuse Bangladesh and Call for Immediate Release of Detained Media Staff

The International Federation of Journalists today accused the authorities in Bangladesh of fuelling "suspicion and mistrust" of journalists after a foreign television crew were arrested on the border with India. The IFJ says that detained media staff working for Britain's Channel 4 News must be released immediately.

"The detention of these journalists is a scandalous assault on press freedom and has no justification whatsoever," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary.

The IFJ responded to an appeal from Channel 4 who is seeking international support for their four-member crew who were arrested yesterday. Police held journalist Zaiba Malik and cameraman Bruno Sorrentino along with their interpreter Priscilla Raj and driver Mujib and took them to Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, for questioning where they were remanded in custody for five days.

The journalists are working for independent production company Mentorn Midlands, which has been commissioned by Channel 4 to make a film on the current political situation in Bangladesh.

"This is an unacceptable violation of the right to report," said Aidan White, "these journalists were in Bangladesh on a professional mission. Their arrest will only fuel suspicion and mistrust of media and journalists, which is already being stirred up by reactionary groups within the country."

IFJ sources in the country they the arrests follow specific allegations of treason and sedition made against them under the Bangladesh Penal Code. According to Channel 4 no formal charges have been laid. A video camera, some videocassettes and some papers were seized from their possession. The police in Benapole, where they were arrested, claim they were travelling on tourist visas.