KIARA BRAMASCO WRITES – A top editor at Bangladesh’s Amar Desh newspaper has been arrested and at least one human rights group says he’s being tortured in police custody. The international Committee to Protect Journalists, meanwhile, has called on the government to stop its official harassment of the Dhaka daily.
How’d we get it this mess?
Earlier this month, government officials closed the printing press that produces the opposition-leaning Amer Desh, and arrested 19 of its staff. The reason given was that the paper had unlawfully reported on a Skype conversation between a Bangladeshi war crimes judge and an expat legal expert. Crimes from the country’s 1971 civil war are a hugely divisive issue in Bangladesh.
The clampdown came in step with arrest of the newspaper’s acting managing editor, Mahmudur Rahman, who has had the book thrown at him with everything from sedition to (bizarrely) destroying cars. Mahmudur denies the charges and has since gone on a hunger strike in jail. He demands that allegedly trumped up charges against his mother be dropped, that the printing press employees be released, and that his paper be allowed to print again.
The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission has issued an appeal for local and international groups to intervene in the case, to prevent what it says would be further torture of Mahmudur behind bars, including electric shock and the apparent hammering of nails into his legs.
A senior journalist at Amar Desh said the paper’s future was unclear. “The publication of daily Amar Desh has now become uncertain due to the closure of its press.” Employees of the daily are not allowed to open its offices until a court order is issued.
Sadly, the future of Amar Desh, and all Bangladeshi press, is most definitely “uncertain.”