BD journalist ordered freed after month-plus in jail
DHAKA: A court ordered the release of a Bangladesh journalist arrested in November while working with a British-based television crew, officials said Wednesday.
Saleem Samad, a freelance journalist and Daily Times correspondent, who was also the representative here of Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders), was ordered released immediately, much to the pleasure of press freedom advocates.
A two-judge bench of Bangladesh’s High Court on Tuesday ruled Samad’s detention was illegal, judicial sources said.
Samad was arrested November 29 after working with a crew filming a documentary for British Channel 4 television’s series “Unreported World.”
Two other journalists, a Briton and an Italian, were also detained and then deported last month.
The government had accused the journalists of involvement in “clandestine activities as journalists, with an apparent and malicious intent of portraying Bangladesh as an Islamic fanatical country.”
Samad was in December ordered released on bail, but was quickly arrested again under Bangladesh’s Special Powers Act, which allows authorities to detain a suspect for 120 days without publicly stating charges.
The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) welcomed the High Court order to end Samad’s “long and unjust imprisonment” and urged the release be carried out swiftly.
“We will be monitoring the situation closely to ensure that the order is carried out,” CPJ executive director Ann Cooper said in a statement issued in New York.
Bangladesh has been increasingly sensitive about media coverage since two leading magazines, Time and the Far Eastern Economic Review, wrote the predominantly Islamic country could become a new hotbed for Islamic extremism. The Dhaka government angrily denied the magazines’ allegations, which have also been voiced by neighbouring India.
Bangladesh cold wave death toll now 640: Seventy-nine more people were felled overnight by a cold spell that has gripped Bangladesh since mid-December, bringing the death toll to 640, local media reported Wednesday.
Despite a slight increase in temperatures, cold continues to grip normally-balmy Bangladesh, which was ill-prepared for the frigid weather. Most of the victims of the near-freezing temperatures are elderly, ailing or young.
Nearly 1,300 people have died across South Asia since temperatures fell in mid-December across Bangladesh, northern India and Nepal, according to media reports.
The Bangladeshi government has not provided death figures from the cold wave, the most severe since 1998, but newspapers have reported 640 deaths, mostly in the north and west of the country.
Dhaka was overcast Wednesday by fog and clouds, a day after residents of the Bangladeshi capital saw the sun for the first time in a week. —AFP