Sign up for weekly updates

Controversial journalist attacked in office raid

(WiPC/IFEX) - The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of International PEN is seriously concerned for the safety of journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Chaudhury, who was reportedly attacked by a group of about 30 men at the offices of his newspaper, "Blitz", on 5 October 2006. His attackers are thought to have included leading members of the ruling Bangladesh National Party (BNP). Chaudhury was reportedly badly beaten in the attack, and around 400,000 Taka (approx. US$4,000) and several cell phones were taken from the "Blitz" office.

Chaudhury is facing sedition charges for his alleged association with Israel and his criticism of the spread of Islamist militancy in Bangladesh. The charge carries a maximum penalty of death or 30 years' imprisonment. His trial is due to start on 12 October.

WiPC calls upon the Bangladeshi authorities to provide Chaudhury with effective police protection immediately. WiPC protests the charges against Chaudhury and urges that they be dropped in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

According to information obtained by WiPC, Chaudhury, editor of the tabloid weekly "Blitz", was arrested by security personnel at Zia International Airport, Dhaka, on 29 November 2003, en route to Israel to participate in a conference with the Hebrew Writers Association. Chaudhury was planning to address a writers' symposium in Tel Aviv entitled "Bridges through Culture", and was scheduled to speak about "the role of media in establishing peace." Bangladesh has no diplomatic relations with Israel and travel to Israel is illegal for Bangladeshi citizens. Intelligence forces claim that documents found in Chaudhury's briefcase, in particular the text of his speech and reports on the human rights situation in Bangladesh, provide evidence to support the charges against him. He is accused of having links to an Israeli intelligence agency and is said to have been under surveillance for several months.

Choudhury is known for his work to improve relations between Muslim countries and Israel, and has written articles against anti-Israeli attitudes in Muslim countries and about the rise of al-Qaeda in Bangladesh, an issue which had sparked debate in the Bangladeshi press and in government prior to his arrest. He was repeatedly denied a bail hearing before being released on bail on 2 May 2005, following appeals by PEN USA, of which he is an honorary member.

On 26 February 2006, Chaudhury reportedly received a death threat from a militant Islamist leader for his writings, and the offices of his newspaper were bombed in July.

WiPC continues to be alarmed at the pattern of violence against journalists in Bangladesh, who are frequently threatened and attacked with apparent impunity solely for the practice of their profession.

Latest Tweet:

Burma: Will the new parliamentary committee tasked with reviewing constitution guarantee the democratic rights to f…

Get more stories like this

Sign up for our newsletters and get the most important free expression news delivered to your inbox.