Scribes' body expresses concern over Bangla charges
The Committee to Protect Journalists, a city-based body that is involved in defending freedom of the news media, has expressed concern over sedition charges leveled against the acting editor and the majority-stake owner of Amar Desh, a Bangladeshi newspaper.
According to a statement released by the CPJ, Mahmudu Rahman, the editor, and Alhaj Hasmat Ali, the publisher, were charged following news articles based on leaked information of conversations between a lawyer and the main judge of the war crimes tribunal.
Saidur Rahman, prosecutor of the tribunal,filed a complaint against Rahman last week after Amar Desh, the second-largest daily in the country, reported on Skype the conversations between Mohammed Nizamul Huq, the judge, and the lawyer, who is a Brussels-based human rights activist.
According to news reports, the judge shared details of the case and sought advice, which some observers say cast doubt on the impartiality of the tribunal. Huq, who initially disputed the authenticity of the leaked conversations, resigned from the tribunal last week.
The tribunal on December 13 ordered all the news media to stop reporting on the leaked conversations and resulting fallout.
"The credibility of the court is dependent on open and unrestricted coverage of its activities," Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator, was quoted as saying in the statement.
"Authorities only undermine the court's mission by leveling these very serious charges of sedition against journalists who have raised critical questions about the proceedings." Rahman has confined himself to his office in Dhaka for the past 10 days. "If the government wants to arrest me, they will have to do so from my desk," Rahman told CPJ. Ali who also faces charges remains at his home, according to Rahman.
The tribunal aims to investigate war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and crimes against peace committed during the 1971 war of independence in which Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan.
Several hundred thousand civilians were killed, and thousands of women raped. As part of a peace treaty, Pakistanis were granted immunity from prosecution in Bangladesh, but Bangladeshis were not. Critics say the tribunal is being used to target political opponents of the ruling Awami League.