Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bangladesh opposition newspaper editor arrested for cyber crime


Plainclothes detectives arrested Mahmudur Rahman, acting editor of pro-opposition daily Amar Desh on April 11 on charges of cyber crime dubbed as “Skypegate”.

Soon after he was taken out from his editorial office in Kawran Bazar this morning, in the capital Dhaka, he was driven with escorted by scores of riot police.

In the same afternoon, Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court agreed to give police 13 days remand in three cases against the editor. Police requested 24 days remand for interrogation.

The arrest was made following a case filed over Mahmudur's alleged involvement in publishing the transcript of Skype conversation in December 2012 on a High Court directive. Charges has been brought against him under sections 57 and 58 of Cyber Crime and ICT Act -2006 and sections 124, 124(a), 120(b) and 511 of the Penal Code, Deputy Commissioner of Police Masudur Rahman said.

In December 14, a case was filed against Rahman and Amar Desh publisher Hasmat Ali with Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court in Dhaka for publishing the controversial Skype conversation between former International Crimes Tribunal chairman Justice Muhammad Nizamul Huq and expatriate Bangladeshi legal expert Ahmed Ziauddin.

Soon questions have been raised about the legality of hacking into Justice Huq's Skype conversation.

He was arrested after four months of the Skype scandal on the basis of evidence obtained after investigation. That is why his arrest took some time, explained office Mahmudur Rahman.

Amar Desh journalists complained that police took away footages from the close circuit cameras as well computers, CDs and files of the Acting Editor without a search warrant.

Rahman was acting editor of Amar Desh since 2008. Earlier he was energy advisor to former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia during the 2001-06 tenure.

Earlier Rahman was imprisoned on June 2, 2010 for six months over charges of contempt of court.

Secular groups alleged that Rahman is responsible for inciting religious sentiments against bloggers and online activists leading Shahbag Square movement demanding trial of war crimes by Islamists in 1971.

Amar Desh was held responsible by the bloggers for publishing scandalous page-one stories for depicted the bloggers as atheist and questionable loose moral characters. The Shahbag Square demanded arrest of Amar Desh editor Mahmudur Rahman and boycott newsstand sale of Amar Desh newspaper.

Pro-opposition Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists and Dhaka Union of Journalists have condemned the arrest of the Mahmudur Rahman. The employees, journalists of Amar Desh organized a sit-down protest in front of National Press Club this morning.

Main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) criticised the arrest of Amar Desh acting editor Mahmudur Rahman and said it was a clear intimidation in freedom of expression.

A statement issued on behalf of BNP leader Khaleda Zia says, “Mahmudur Rahman, the brave fighter of free thoughts and expression, has secretly been arrested. The government has insulted the memory of 1971 martyrs in the manner of this arrest because those fighters had fought for freedom of expression.”

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow (USA) is an independent journalist based in Bangladesh. He is correspondent for Paris based Reporters Without Border (RSF), an international media watchdog

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Media harassed, women reporters attacked by Mullahs

TV Reporter Nadira Sharmin, convalescing after being wounded by Mullahs

Pro-Sharia Islamist group Hifazat-e-Islam activists attacked media persons during their rally in downtown Dhaka, injuring eight journalists including a woman reporter.

Women reporters and TV crew were denied entry to Hifazat's rally in Dhaka. The Hifazat-e Islam not only barred women from entering its rally, but also harassed physically and mentally several female journalists covering the rally event.

Private channel Ekushey Television’s (ETV) reporter Nadia Sharmin was attacked who were demanding cancelling the women’s policy and banning public mixing of men and women. Sharmin was attacked around 3pm when she went to cover the rally.

“Some Hifazat activists came to me and told me that admission of women to the rally is not allowed.

They said, ‘You resort to falsehood. You’re the agents of Ganajagaran Mancha’ (youths protest against Islamist at Shahbag Square). At one point of the conversation they assaulted me. I took shelter in a car nearby and then they even tried to vandalise the car,” she said.

“I asked why I can’t go just because I am not wearing headscarf (hijab)? It’s my personal business whether I wear scarf or not. Who’re you to talk about this? Then they got locked in argument with me. At one stage I started for my office again ignoring their obstruction.”

The activists interrupted Financial Express Reporter Arafat Ara, near press club while she was going to office.

On Friday, Mohona TV Chief Reporter Sumi Khan faced obstruction from the Hifazat activists in Chittagong, the second largest city in the south.

Dainik Ittefaq’s photographer Sujon Mondol was attacked. Both Mondol and Sharmin were admitted at a state medical college hospital.

The journalists were dubbed as ‘dalals’ (stooge) and ‘nastiks’ (atheists) during the assault by the Hifazat activists.

Foyzul Alam Siddique was severely beaten up by the Hifazat activists. A freelance photographer Nazrul Islam was also critically injured in the assault.

Two more journalists of SA Television (SATV) were assaulted near the venue and their camera were vandalised. Reporter Mohsin Kabir and TV crew Khurshed Alam from SATV were assaulted and Khurshed’s camera was taken away while interviewing some leaders of Hefajat-e Islam.
The Islamist activists also assaulted and injured ATN News crew Sohel Rana with sticks in front in downtown. Police officials rushed him to a police hospital for treatment.

Meanwhile in Savar, at the outskirts of the capital, TV crew Abul Halim of Baishakhi Television and Nazmul Huda of ETV. They were alleged harassed by anti-Islamist demanding trial of war crimes activists of Jahangirnagar University. They said the activists snatched away their cameras when they were shooting footage of the Hefajat’s long march being obstructed.

On Friday, the aggrieved Hefajat men physically assaulted four journalists of private television channel Ekatteur television (Channel 71) in the afternoon, while they were covering the rally.

The four newsmen are: Mohim Mizan, Mainuddin Dulal, Babul Paal and Rajib Barua. Khurshed was admitted to hospital with serious wounds, while Mohsin was released after treatment.

On Sunday (7 April) scores of women reporters held a banner in front of the National Press Club in the city centre protesting the Mullahs attack, assault and humiliation. The journalist’s leaders threatened the Islamist that if the security and respect for the women reporters are compromised, they may call for boycott of news and broadcast.

Hours later to the surprise of many Hefajat-e Islam regrets attack on journalists during its rally at downtown Motijheel rally. Noor Hossain Kashemi, leader of Hefajat made the statement at a press briefing held at in the capital a day after the grand rally.

“On behalf of our leaders we express regret to the journalists who were injured by our men mistakenly,” Kashemi said. The Hefajat leaders also directed its activists not to inflict any harm to any journalists including females, he added.

Saleem Samad is an Ashoka Fellow (USA), correspondent of Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Friday, April 05, 2013

Bangladesh blogs blackout in protest of crackdown on blogger

Free intenet...u fools!


More than ten blogs blacked out their sites in protest amidst series of government harassment and arrests on pro-secular, anti-Islamist bloggers over allegations of being “atheist” and accusing them for blasphemy.

The blogs homepage posted messages decrying government’s crackdown on the blogging community.

“Muzzle Me Not,” homepage of, states, “Resist and protest government’s appeasement of fundamentalists — arrest and torture of bloggers — harassment of blog platforms.”

Other blogs, including Shachalayatan, Amarblog, Amar Bondhu, Muktangong, Mukto-mona, Choturmatrik and Unmochon, echoed the same.

So far, law enforcers have arrested four bloggers in the last three days, sparking widespread criticism and outrage from different quarters, especially from the blogging community.

Abu Mustafiz (m), moderator of Unmochon blog said, “we have closed our sites in protest at the arrest and harassment of bloggers and closing of blogs as part of a hateful political ploy.”

However, Syeda Gulshan Ferdous Jana, founder of SomeWhereInTheBlog, Khaledur Rahman Shakil’s blog and few others have disagreed to blackout their homepage. They argue that at this crucial period of harassment, it is imperative to have their blogs in cyberspace to inform the public. To inform is also a social responsibility, Jana said.

Source: The Daily Star, April 5, 2013

Saleem Samad is an Ashoka Fellow (USA) and correspondent for Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a Paris based media freedom watchdog