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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 298
December 01, 2012

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Rights Watch

Press freedom and application of remand to interrogate journalists

Oli Md. Abdullah Chowdhury


Journalists still face harassments in Bangladesh though democracy prevails in the country. Recently, there was an editorial published in the Prothom Alo (October 26, 2012) on the alleged remand application against a group of journalists. A case was earlier filed against a total of 400 employees of the Amar Desh. Journalists were on bail and they were also attending hearing following procedures. Interestingly, a police officer recently prayed for remand to get information about correct and full names and addresses of journalists employed with the national daily.

What is the purpose of remand? There is a common allegation against police that members of the force usually harass, even physically assault during remand. Previously, there were incidents when detained persons died in the process of interrogation during remand. In the name of remand, law enforcing agencies have allegedly committed gross human rights violations in the past. Seeking remand in order to gather names and addresses from journalists gave birth of several questions.

Among the journalists against whom the application was made, the name of the executive editor of the daily Amar Desh is also placed. According to the concerned police officer, the editor and his colleagues needed to be remanded in custody for interrogation about their full names and permanent addresses. It not only surprised the journalist community alone, but other professionals involved with media as well. Journalists are quite known and there are other ways to get information about the professionals involved with the media.

“When any person who in the presence of a police-officer has committed or has been accused of committing a non-cognizable offence refuses, on demand of such officer, to give his name and residence or gives a name or residence which such officer has reason to believe to be false, he may be arrested by such officer in order that his name or residence may be ascertained”- said in Section 57(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CRPC). Attempt made by police officer to seek remand in order to gather address of senior journalists has received wide-spread criticism. They already secured bail from the court and they attended court hearings on earlier occasions.

“Subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence (a) the right of every citizen to freedom of speech and expression; and (b) freedom of the press, are guaranteed” said in Article 39(2) of the constitution of Bangladesh. However, freedom of press is not secured when there is a conflict with party in power. There are apparent suggestions that the present government like their previous predecessors is hostile towards oppositional journalism.

There is a judgment [55 DLR (2003) 363] promulgated by the High Court providing specific guidelines for law enforcing agencies. The guidelines included measures intended to prevent death and injury during custody such as requiring police officers to take injured arrestees to the hospital and requiring police to conduct interrogations at the jail gate rather than in police remand. Let alone general public, journalists were subjected to torture and harassment in several incidents.

It was not only in the Prothom Alo, but there was an editorial published also in the New Age (October 23, 2012) on the alleged remand application. It has been opined in the editorial of New Age, “Had the officer been really incapable of collecting the 'full names and permanent addresses' of such well known citizens, he should rather have been ousted from the police force on charge of sheer incompetence in the first place”. Whatever it is mentioned in the application, it is quite clear that the objective of taking the journalists to remand is to harass them.

Bangladesh has signed and ratified a number of international human rights convention where the state made specific commitment to ensure press freedom. Bangladesh is also a party of the Convention against Torture (CAT). Even though repeated commitments were made in international forums, culture of impunity has still existed and a section of police officers were allowed to continue with their excessiveness. Remand application against journalists of the daily Amar Desh for a trivial reason simply reflects this trend.

“To enjoy the protection of the law, and to be treated in accordance with law, and only in accordance with law, is the inalienable right of every citizen, wherever he may be, and of every other person for the time being within Bangladesh, and in particular no action detrimental to the life, liberty, body, reputation or property of any person shall be taken except in accordance with law”- said in Article 39 of the constitution. In order to secure democracy, protection of all persons including media personnel is vital. Journalists must be treated in accordance with law in order to flourish democracy.


The writer is a human rights worker.


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