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Arrest and Mistreatment of Publisher in Bangladesh

IFJ Worried Over Arrest and Mistreatment of Publisher in Bangladesh

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned over the arrest, mistreatment and possible torture of Mahmudur Rahman publisher and editor of the daily Amar Desh by authorities in Bangladesh.

On June 1, the Bangladesh Government cancelled registration of Amar Desh, saying it was in breach of the law as it had no authorised or identifiable publisher. Rahman was arrested the same day despite protests by the staff of his newspaper.

He has since been produced before a magistrate three times and committed successively to police remand. Human rights groups in Bangladesh believe that he has suffered serious mistreatment and possible torture while in custody. Rahman has been charged with multiple cases of financial malfeasance by the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

Amar Desh was bought by Rahman from its erstwhile publisher in 2009, shortly after Bangladesh returned to civilian rule. His application to be registered as publisher of Amar Desh was rejected on the grounds that he was ineligible, because of numerous cases registered against him.

The newspaper’s registration was since cancelled by the Deputy Commissioner of Dhaka, who allegedly found that the publisher in whose name Amar Desh was registered had informed the authorities in March 2010 that he was ceasing his involvement with the newspaper.

Observers in Bangladesh believe Rahman may have been targeted because of a recent series of reports in his newspaper about alleged acts of malfeasance by senior government officials.

On December 17, 2009, Amar Desh carried a report alleging irregularities in a transaction with a United States oil company concluded on the recommendation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed’s energy adviser.

Rahman was chairman of the Board of Investment and Energy Adviser in the 2001-06 Government led by the Bangladesh National Party, now in opposition. In June 2008, under the military-backed “emergency” administration, he was indicted by the ACC for financial irregularities by a Dhaka-based real estate enterprisethat he was involved with as director. He is also known to have numerous other business interests.

“Rahman’s case illustrates how the media in Bangladesh continues to be divided and targeted on account of the bitter rivalry between the country’s two main political parties,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

“This illustrates, above all, that the media community needs to work towards norms of financial transparency in the industry and ensure that media ownership interests are kept at arm’s length from other business pursuits.”

ENDS

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