Three senior Bangladeshi journalists of a pro-opposition newspaper have been arrested for publishing a “false” report that Indian forces had helped the government contain violence during the recent controversial polls.
Detectives raided the office of Inqilab, a Dhaka-based Bangla-language daily were arrested on Thursday and picked up the three journalists. They also sealed the press, plate-making and server rooms and seized three computers.
The raid was conducted hours after police filed a case against the newspaper for publishing “baseless” news that the Bangladesh government took assistance from the Indian Army and Border Security Force to contain violence in southwestern Satkhira district, which borders India. News editor Rabiulla Ulla Robi, deputy chief reporter Rafiq Mohammad and diplomatic correspondent Ahmmed Atiq were today produced in a magistrate’s court, which sent them to jail.
The court fixed Monday for hearing the remand and bail petitions of the arrested, Dhaka Tribune reported.
“It (the report) was a blatant lie and it was published with a clear aim to jeopardise Bangladesh’s relations with India…it coud have triggered a riot,” Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu told reporters.
He said the report also insulted security forces like the Border Guard Bangladesh and Rapid Action Battalion, which were deployed to contain violence in Satkhira ahead of the January 5 polls.
A senior Home Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told PTI that elements close to the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) or its ally, the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, could have masterminded the propaganda to defame the Awami League, which won the recent polls.
Police officials said the journalists were arrested for publishing a “highly sensational” report that was “totally untrue”. “They were arrested under a specific law and will be exposed to justice,” a police spokesman said.
The front-page report in the rightwing newspaper purportedly quoted matter from social media sites and incorporated alleged reactions from government officials and analysts.
The Foreign Ministry rubbished the report, saying a purported Dhaka-Delhi communication it cited was a “production of photoshop technique”.
Several other websites carried the Inqilabs’ report while unidentified persons sent a “forged official communication” to the National Press Club for circulation among journalists.
Authorities last year sealed the press of pro-opposition Amar Desh newspaper for carrying forged photos of police repressions of “pious Muslims”. The government also ordered the suspension of a pro-opposition TV channel.
A Dhaka court last month jailed Amar Desh editor Mahmudur Rahman for seven years after finding him guilty of harming the country’s interests through his articles.
The latest arrests came on a day when BNP chief Khaleda Zia met Indian High Commissioner Pankaj Saran and said her party wants good relations with India.
After the meeting, BNP Vice-Chairman Shamser Mobin Chowdhury quoted Saran as saying that India “wants to work with a government the people of Bangladesh desire”.
“Responding to that, the BNP Chairperson said BNP wanted to have good relations with India based on mutual respect and benefit. We will maintain good ties with India,” he said.
The January 5 election was marred by an opposition boycott, deadly violence and deaths.