International

Media group concerned over detention of media professionals in Bangladesh

SAMDEN also points to cases filed against reporters in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Gujarat

The South Asia Media Defenders Network (SAMDEN) on Tuesday raised concerns over the “detention of media professionals in Bangladesh, attacks on journalists in Punjab, and the dismissal of a pregnant reporter in Assam as part of a pattern of official and corporate arbitrariness against media in the region.”

In a statement, the group said the Bangladesh government had used the Digital Security Act, passed in 2018, “to arrest or charge at least 20 journalists over the past month.”

“In one case, a senior journalist vanished in March after a politician from the governing Awami League party filed a criminal defamation case against him. The reporter mysteriously turned up on the India-Bangladesh border nearly two months later and was slapped with three cases under the DSA while senior editor Matiur Rahman Choudhury of Manabzamin is also accused in the case,” it said.

The group called on the Sheikh Hasina government to free the arrested journalists.

The last place

“During a pandemic, a jail is the last place for a person to be, especially media professionals who are most needed at this time to provide factual, independent critical information to the public and to government as well as fearless reporting,” it said.

The media network also condemned the breach of privacy of Pakistani editor and publisher of the Jang Group, Mir Shakilur Rahman, who was seen in a recent video by the National Accountability Bureau being presented a bouquet of flowers from NAB Director-General while in jail.

“This violates the globally accepted codes of conduct to protect people under investigation or in prison from the public eye,” it said.

The group also raised concerns over actions against media in India, including police beating up a journalist in Chandigarh and cases filed against reporters in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Gujarat for reports filed by them.

A case was filed against a reporter with Punjabi Jagran for “writing that a local Indian National Congress party minister was following the advice of astrologers;” in Uttar Pradesh’s Sitapur district, a case was filed against journalist Ravindra Saxena over a video report quoting residents of a quarantine centre on the quality of food served to them; and in Gujarat, the editor of a website, Dhaval Patel, was charged with sedition for a report alleging that the Chief Minister may be replaced for his handling of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic response, the group said.

No maternity leave

“These incidents follow FIRs against journalists in as many as four other jurisdictions since the lockdown began two months ago. SAMDEN also supports journalist Ranjita Rabha from Assam who says she was forced to resign by Prag News as the organisation said it had no policy of maternity leave for employees.”

SAMDEN, which is anchored in the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, said these incidents raised concerns for the future of the media.

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Printable version | Jul 8, 2020 10:21:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/media-group-concerned-over-detention-of-media-professionals-in-bangladesh/article31681258.ece

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