Sixteen newspaper editors have asked for the release of Daily Amar Desh acting editor Mahmudur Rahman, saying that his arrest and continued detention was a threat to the freedom of press.
In a statement on Saturday, they also expressed concern about the closure of Amar Desh press and two TV stations.
The statement said that both the Islamic TV and Diganta TV should be allowed to go on air and Amar Desh should be allowed to print and circulate.
The editors who signed the statement were Daily Independent’s Mahbubul Alam, Samakal’s Golam Sarowar, Prothom Alo’s Motiur Rahman, New Age’s Nurul Kabir, Daily Today’s Riaz Uddin Ahmed, Kaler Kantha’s Imdadul Haque Milon, Daily Star’s Mahfuz Anam, Daily Sangbad’s acting editor Muniruzzaman and Manabjamin’s Motiur Rahman Chowdhury.
The statement was also signed by – Daily Inqilab’s AMM Bahauddin, Naya Diganta’s Alamgir Mohiuddin, Financial Express’ AHM Moazzem Hossain, Bangladesh Pratidin’s Naem Nizam, New Nation’s Mostofa Kamal Majumder, Jugantar executive editor Saiful Alam and online news portal banglanews24.com’s Alamgir Hossain.
Police on Apr 11 arrested Mahmudur Rahman from his Karwan Bazar office on charge of sedition and for publishing reports on an alleged Skype conversation between an International Crimes Tribunal judge and an expatriate Bangladeshi legal expert. Rahman was also sued under the Information and Communication Technology Act 2006.
Later that night, police raided the Amar Desh press in the city’s Tejgaon area and sealed it off.
On the other hand, broadcast of Diganta Television, tied to Jamaat-e-Islami, and pro-BNP Islamic TV was ‘temporarily suspended’ on May 5.
Senior Jamaat leader Mir Quasem Ali is the Chairman of the Diganta Media Corporation which owns and operates The Daily Naya Diganta newspaper and Diganta TV. On the other hand, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia’s younger brother, late Sayeed Eskander, was the founding Chairman of the Islamic TV.
Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu had said the two stations were taken off the air temporarily as they were instigating religious passions and had violated the condition for their licences.
The statement of the 15 editors on Saturday said arrest and alleged torture of Amar Desh acting editor, closing its press, cases against the newspaper’s acting chairman Mahmuda Begum (Mahmudur’s mother), and Daily Sangram editor Abul Asad for printing Amar Desh, and shutting down the TV stations ‘were avoidable and unfortunate’.
“These moves are not positive for an elected and democratic government as they have thrown many journalists out of work.”
The editors said, “We think these moves by the government are a threat on the freedom of press and right to expression. These incidents will weaken our democracy.”
The statement also criticised the closure of the media houses and arrest and torture of an editor.
Secular groups had alleged Mahmudur Rahman was the moving force behind whipping up religious passion against bloggers and online activists who were leading the Shahbagh’s Ganajagaran Mancha since Feb 5 asking for death penalty for convicted war criminals and for a ban on the Jamaat-e-Islami.