In a scathing attack on some editors for seeking release of detained Amar Desh’s Acting Editor Mahmudur Rahman, Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu said such appeal was ‘not in the best interest of the media’.
Earlier on Saturday, 16 editors said stopping the publication of a newspaper and the broadcast of two TV channels are sending a negative message to the world about Bangladesh’s democratic values, culture, and tolerance. The actions were “unexpected” and “upsetting”, they added.
Inu said the editors issued their statement without knowing the entire facts.
“Mahmudur Rahman has scripted an ignominious chapter in the media history. He has manipulated his role as a journalist for the sake of some individuals and a vested quarter,” Inu claimed at a press briefing on Monday.
Editors of 15 dailies and a web portal issued a statement on Saturday asking for the release of Rahman, the Acting Editor of a BNP-leaning daily, Amar Desh, saying his arrest and continued detention was a threat to the freedom of press.
The statement 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.”
They also demanded the Islamic TV and Diganta TV be allowed to go on air and Amar Desh be allowed to restart printing.
Rahman had taken a stance against the Ganajagaran Mancha which has been pressing for maximum penalty for alleged war criminals being tried under the ICT and a ban on the opposition party, Jamaat-e-Islami.
Information Minister Inu suggested the editors’ statement had tarnished the image of the media persons.
“Advocating without knowing the truth is harmful for the media. I hope they will accept our explanations and refrain from advocating for Mahmudur release in future,” he said.
Mahmudur Rahman had been detained on specific charges, Inu said.
Police on Apr 11 detained Mahmudur Rahman on charge of sedition and publishing transcripts of an alleged Skype conversation between an International Crimes Tribunal judge and an expatriate Bangladeshi legal expert. Charges have also been filed against Rahman’s mother, Mahmuda Begum, currently sitting in as Acting Editor of Amar Desh.
Later that night, police raided the Amar Desh press in the city’s Tejgaon and sealed it off.
On the other hand, airing of Diganta Television, which is said to be close to Jamaat-e-Islami, and pro-BNP Islamic TV were suspended on May 5 when police raided the studios and confiscated their transmission equipment.