Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)-The arrest of a senior journalist in Bangladesh points to yet another instance of the government muzzling dissent and freedom of expression in the country, said Catholic human rights workers.
Police on April 16 arrested Shafik Rehman from his residence in Dhaka, accusing him of being involved in a plot to abduct and kill the son of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the United States last year, reports the UCA News.
Rehman, 81, a critic of the ruling Awami League government, is editor of the Bengali monthly magazine Mouchake Dhil in Dhaka.
Partisan journalism and the government muzzling of dissent are both unacceptable, says Father Joyanto S. Gomes, secretary of Bangladesh Catholic bishops’ Social Communication Commission.
“We know partisan journalism is a bad thing, but we can’t accept the government policy to muzzle dissent,” he told ucanews.com.
“The law will see if he is guilty or not, because no one, not even a journalist is above the law,” Father Gomes said.
A string of arrests and intimidation of journalists including that of Rehman is government’s “politically motivated” agenda against dissent in Bangladesh, said Rosaline Costa, a Catholic rights activist.
“This is a part of a policy of crackdown on dissent and the government wants to deliver the message that it will shut down any voice its deems as critical,” Costa, executive director of Hotline Human Rights Trust told ucanews.com.
“That’s bad news for media and activists who criticize the government and it would harm democracy in Bangladesh,” she added.
Information Minister Hasanul Huq said on April 17 said Rehman has been arrested on “specific charges.”
Huq told BBC Bengali Service “There is no government policy to crackdown on media or dissent in the country.”
Bangladesh has seen a string of criminal proceedings against journalists critical of the government in recent times.
Mahfuz Anam, editor of country’s English newspaper The Daily Star currently faces 79 sedition and defamation cases.
Matiur Rahman, editor of country’s Bengali newspaper Prothom Alo, faces 25 defamation cases.
Two prominent journalists Mahmudur Rahman and Shawkat Mahmud, know for their leanings to the opposition are also currently in jail.