By Star Online Report
The attempts to pursue coordinated legal proceedings against the editor was a clear attempt to intimidate the media and muzzle press freedom in Bangladesh, the international body of journalists said on Tuesday.
The legal actions were launched after Anam made an introspective comment about a lapse in his editorial judgement in publishing a few reports based on information given by the Taskforce Interrogation Cell during the 2007-08 caretaker government without being able to verify them independently.
The military-backed interim government declared a state of emergency in 2007, detaining the leaders of the two biggest political parties and initiating cases against them.
“The IFJ is seriously concerned by the legal harassment of Mahfuz Anam as result of reporting in the public interest at a time of political crisis. The high number of cases and the filing of these across the country indicates an aggressive politically-motivated effort to harass a senior editor and a key newspaper in the Bangladesh,” a press release of the organisation reads.
Acting on petitions seeking to bring sedition charges against Anam, courts in both Dhaka and Kurigram ordered local police to seek permission from the government to run an inquiry into the allegations. However, the inquiry does not impact on all the cases across the country, with a number of them still summoning Anam. Lawmakers demanded punishment to Anam and the newspaper to be suspended for lacking professional integrity.
The IFJ said: “The use of sedition and defamation laws in this case is extremely concerning. Sedition laws are regarded as a relic of the past but are too often being revived as a means to silence political opposition and criticism in the region. This is a worrying development in an already extremely challenged media environment of Bangladesh.”
The Daily Star has been the subject of harassment in the past by the Bangladeshi government. It has also suffered massive losses in advertising revenue after Bangladeshi authorities forced leading telecommunication companies to stop advertising, the release added.
“It is critical that legal system is not used by some groups to harass the journalists and media and we urge the judiciary to intervene in the matter to ensure a full and fair trial, with all cases being heard in one court,” the IFJ said.