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Bangladesh anti-government paper forced to stop printing

Presses sealed and editor arrested in new threat to media freedom in Bangladesh

ucanews.com reporter, Dhaka

ucanews.com reporter, Dhaka

Published: April 16, 2013 08:11 AM GMT

Updated: April 16, 2013 05:07 PM GMT

Bangladesh anti-government paper forced to stop printing
Editors at Amer Desh have been forced to stop printing

Pro-opposition daily newspaper Amer Desh said yesterday it had suspended publication following the arrest of its editor and obstruction of its printing presses by authorities as the government was again accused of shackling the media.

Executive Editor Syed Abdal Ahmed told a press conference in Dhaka that authorities “sealed off” one of its presses and blocked printing at another print house just days after police arrested acting editor, Mahmudur Rahman, on three charges including sedition.

Masud Ahmed Talukder, a lawyer for the paper, said Amer Desh would defer only to the Supreme Court over the government’s decision to block publication.

“The government has committed contempt of court by violating a 2010 Supreme Court directive which allowed the daily to continue its publication,” he said, referring to a previous case against Rahman and the paper.

Rahman has been at the center of government accusations of political interference in the ongoing war crimes tribunal in Bangladesh after Amar Desh published hacked Skype conversations between a tribunal judge and a Brussels-based Bangladeshi lawyer.

Rahman is an advisor to Khaleda Zia, former prime minister and current head of the opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP.)

On Thursday night, the same day that Rahman was arrested, authorities raided and locked the Amar Desh printing press and seized computers and documents.

Publication continued using the printing press of another BNP-aligned paper, the Daily Sangram. However, police also raided that press on Saturday night in an operation which included the seizure of copies of Amar Desh and the arrest of 19 staff.

State Minister for Home Affairs Shamshul Haque yesterday accused Rahman and Amar Desh of involvement in anti-state activities and said that they should face legal action.

The case appears to be part of an escalating government crackdown against dissent.

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Earlier this month, police arrested four bloggers after they criticized the government over its treatment of minority and mainstream Islamist groups.

Police said they would face charges of “instigating negative elements against Islam to create anarchy.” Authorities have indicated that further arrests may follow.

Yesterday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) joined a number of rights groups inside the country in criticizing the government over recent arrests targeting the media.

“Bangladeshis should have the right to peacefully express their views and the state should address these demands through the rule of law, instead of embarking on politically motivated arrests,” Brad Adams, Asia director of HRW, said in a statement.

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