You don’t have to be a legal expert to recognise that Bangladesh police simply have no legal authority to stop the press of the Daily Sangram (a pro-Jamaat newspaper) from publishing the Amar Desh newspaper (a pro-opposition paper).
So much for the foreign minister’s various protestations to the diplomatic community about the rule of law in Bangladesh – ‘As a nation, we must come out of this vicious circle to allow the rule of law to prevail in all spheres of our society,’ she said on 10 April 2013. Yes indeed, foreign minister.
On Saturday night, 13 April, the police turned up at the the printing press of the Daily Sangram newspaper which had agreed to publish the Amar Desh newspaper since its own printing press had been closed down earlier by the police. At the Sangram printing press, the police arrested 19 press workers employed by Amar Desh and filed cases against the editor of Sangram newspaper, and the acting chairman of the company that owns Amar Desh, Mahmuda Begum (who happens to be the mother of the editor, himself arrested two days earlier).
The police have said that they have done this on the basis of section 10 of the ‘Printing Presses and Publications (Declaration and Registration) Act 1973’. What does section 10 state?
‘If at any time after the making of a declaration under section 7, the newspaper to which the declaration relates is printed or published in a language, with a periodicity or at a place, other than the language or languages, periodicity or place shown in the declaration, the declaration shall become null and void, and any further printing and publication of the newspaper shall be unauthorised unless a fresh declaration under section 7 is made, but nothing in this section shall apply to a temporary change of the place of printing or publication for a period not exceeding thirty days at any one time, if within seventy-two hours of such temporary change the District Magistrate is informed of it in the manner prescribed.’
What is important to note is the following:
Would it not be nice if he read the law first before arresting 19 people and filing cases against two others, one being an editor of a national daily?
Of course this is all happening in the context of the arrest on Thursday (11 April) of the editor of Amar Desh, Mahmadur Rahman – a very polarising figure in Bangladesh politics, and a difficult person to have much sympathy with after his paper used religious sentiment in such a dangerous way to define those protesting peacefully in Shahbag as ‘atheists’ and provoking attacks upon them from the religious right in Bangladesh politics.
But whether you like him or not, it is a very different question as to whether he should have be arrested. I will write more about this in the future, but on the charge of sedition over the publication of the Skype conversations relating to the International Crimes Tribunal, I will just refer you to what I wrote back in December when the possibility of his arrest for this offence was first muted.