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Bangladesh 13 December 2002

Police arrest Reuters journalist

Enamul Haque Chowdhury, a journalist with the government news agency BSS and stringer for Reuters news agency, was charged in connection with bomb attacks on cinemas in the northern town of Mymensingh and imprisoned for seven days at police request. He was jailed without being allowed to see his lawyer or his family. He reportedly admitted writing a false report to harm the interior minister at the request of an opposition figure, Saber Chowdhury. He is reported to have been beaten by police during interrogation. He was dismissed by BSS after being arrested. Information minister Tariqul Islam called on Reuters to publicly apologise to the Bangladeshi people because, he said, there was no Al-Qaeda or Taliban network in the country.


On 13 December, Enamul Huque Chowdhury, a stringer for the British news agency Reuters, was arrested for writing that bomb attacks on cinemas in the northern town of Mymensingh on 7 December may have been the work of Al-Qaeda terrorists. He faces two years in prison.

The report quoted interior minister Altaf Hossein Chowdhury as saying this, but the minister later denied he had. Reuters withdrew the report, saying it could not guarantee its accuracy.

Without judging the episode, Reporters Without Borders called for the journalist’s release, noting that the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression had ruled that prison sentences for such offences were out of proportion to the crime.

Journalist Chowdhury, 45, senior correspondent for the official news agency Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha and a stringer (part-time writer) for Reuters, was arrested during a police raid after two days in hiding.

He was taken before a judge who authorised police to hold him for questioning for at least three days. He could be jailed for two years for putting out "false or malicious" informations against the government.




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