Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières) today demanded the immediate release of a four-member British TV crew arrested on 25 November at the Indian border and an end to official harassment of the organisation’s correspondent in Bangladesh and his family.
"The Bangladesh authorities say they have nothing to hide about the country’s political and religious situation, but foreign journalists are treated like enemies and those who help them are harassed," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to interior minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury. He asked that legal steps being taken against the journalists be dropped at once because they were a "serious attack on press freedom."
Zaiba Malik (journalist) and Bruno Sorrentino (cameraman), of the British TV company Channel-4, along with their interpreter Pricila Raj and driver Mujib, were arrested by police as they were about to cross the eastern border into India near Benapole and taken to the capital, Dhaka, for interrogation on suspicion of subversive activities. They were in the country to prepare a programme about the political and religious situation.
The arrests came after an intimidation campaign by state security police against the journalists and their two assistants. Saleem Samad, a journalist and local correspondent of Reporters Without Borders, is being sought by police because he helped the Channel-4 team. His home is being watched by state security agents, his family harassed and his phone has been cut off. Directors of the Bangladesh Centre for Development, Journalism and Communication (BCDJC) have been also under surveillance and threatened for helping the foreign journalists.
Such harassment is defended by conservative and Islamist newspapers. For example, the pro-government Dainik Dinkal denounced the two journalists on 16 November as plotters and printed a photo of them and Samad at an anti-American demonstration near a mosque in Dhaka.