Ensure no attack on free speech | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 19, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:23 PM, January 19, 2020

Ensure no attack on free speech

Amnesty urges govt; political parties, journos concerned over arrest warrant against Prothom Alo editor, 9 others

Amnesty International South Asia yesterday said Bangladesh authorities must ensure that the legal proceedings against 10 people, including Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman, follow due process.

“Authorities must therefore show restraint on any action that can amount to an attack on freedom of expression in the country,” the international rights body said in a Facebook post.

Meanwhile, different political parties and leaders of journalist unions have expressed concern over the arrest warrants. 

They said although the legal proceedings could have continued with issuance of a summon, arrest warrants were issued.

The opportunity to seek protection from a higher court shrunk as the arrest warrants were issued right before the weekend began, they added.

A Dhaka court on Thursday issued the arrest warrants in a case filed by the father of Naimul Abrar Rahat, a ninth-grader of Residential Model College, who was electrocuted during the anniversary programme of Prothom Alo’s youth magazine Kishor Alo on November 1 last year.

The case was filed with the Fourth Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court in Dhaka on November 6.

The charges brought against the accused are under section 304(A) of Bangladesh Penal Code. The section deals with deaths caused by “rash or negligent act”.

According to the section, a person may face up to five years in jail if charges are proven against him or her. 

Leaders of different organisations also called upon the authorities not to harass the Prothom Alo editor and others in this regard.

JATIYA OIKYAFRONT

Jatiya Oikyafront in a statement yesterday called upon the authorities concerned to refrain from the efforts to curb freedom of expression and press.

Oikyafront, an alliance of six political parties including the BNP, came up with the call a day after a Dhaka court issued arrest warrants.

Terming the case “motivated”, Oikyafront urged the authorities not to curb freedom of expression by filing such cases. 

“There is no way to separate this case from the attacks -- one after another -- on the freedom of expression in the country,” the statement read.

The signatories to the statement are: Gonoforum President Dr Kamal Hossain, JSD President ASM Abdur Rob, BNP Standing Committee Member Dr Abdul Moin Khan, Nagorik Oikya Convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna, Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, and Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh Chairman Prof Nurul Amin Bepary. 

‘WARRANTS ISSUED FOR PUBLISHING TRUTH’

BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir yesterday said there is no freedom of expression in the country as the government is “oppressive”.

“The government is repressing those who are engaged in writing and speaking the truth…” Fakhrul said at a programme at the Jatiya Press Club in the capital.

“What is the offence of Matiur Rahman? The offence is he wrote something. His newspaper publishes the truth and thus, he has been implicated in an unnatural death case,” he said.

JOURNO BODIES VOICE CONCERN

Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ) and Dhaka Union of Journalists (DUJ) in a joint statement yesterday called upon the government “not to repress, harass or arrest editors and journalists”.

The statement was signed by BFUJ President Ruhul Amin Gazi, its Secretary General M Abdullah, along with DUJ President Kader Gani Chowdhury and its General Secretary Shahidul Islam.

INTERNATIONAL OUTCRY

The issuance of arrest warrants against Matiur and nine others hit the news in various countries on Thursday.

Washington Post, New York Times, Voice of America and Washington Times carried the AP news agency report on their online news portals. 

The report said that the court had issued an arrest warrant against renowned editor Matiur Rahman and nine others regarding an incident where a schoolboy was electrocuted and died during an event.

In Canada, the Toronto-based news portal City News and the Vancouver-based radio channel News 1130 also carried the AP report. Turkey-based news agency Anadolu Agency published its own report regarding the arrest warrants.

Northeast Now, the Assam-based media outlet in India, published a report, “Arrest warrant against Bangladesh newspaper editor”.

DW Bangla also published the report prominently while BBC Bangla carried the news both online and on radio.

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