Repeating orders from High Court in this regard being ignored
Law enforcement agencies have been continuing its long practice of presenting suspects before the media soon after arresting them, despite repeated orders from the High Court not to do so before trial.
Following a writ petition on December 11, 2012, the High Court ordered the concerned departments to not produce arrested persons before the press.
Three years later in 2015, the HC again passed an order imposing a bar to such kind of parade while hearing a similar appeal.
On August 29 last year, the HC bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Md Mostafizur Rahman ordered the enforcement agencies not to make statements before the media while investigating a case.
On December 1 last year, the HC observed that Rajshahi police administration was irresponsibility and violated laws by publishing the disputed confessional statement of a child arrested in connection with the case, through issuing a press release to the media.
Recently on September 4, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested expelled Juba League activist Asadul Haq and painters Nabirul Islam and Santu Chanda, a day after the heinous attack on Ghoraghat Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Wahida Khanam in Dinajpur.
RAB-13 Commanding Officer Reza Ahmed Ferdous, in his briefing to the media, said the three arrestees had confessed to their crime during interrogation. RAB also said that they will disclose to journalists what the arrestees confessed to.
But, a week later, police investigators contradicted the RAB statement saying that the UNO Wahida’s former house staff Robiul made the attack on her and the three arrested in the RAB drive were not involved in the attack.
In a press briefing, police also said that the arrested Robiul confessed his involvement in the attack to the police.
Talking to Dhaka Tribune, RAB Legal and Media Wing Director Ashique Billah argued that they are completely following the High Court order and not parading arrested persons before the media.
He also said that some of the pictures and videos of some arrested persons published recently in media were basically were taken by journalists without their consent.
Meanwhile, Md Sohel Rana, additional inspector general (media cell) at Police Headquarters, could not be reached for his comments on the matter despite repeated attempts.
Pictures taken 'only for internal records'
In many cases, images of alleged drug smugglers and traders with seized drugs or goods are released to the media after being arrested by the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB).
The images generically show the names of the arrested persons on placards on their chest with the seized items in front of them.
Apart from this, the BGB also did a campaign against drug traffickers a year ago in the border districts of Brahmanbaria and Joypurhat, where they hung up sign boards on residences of alleged drug dwellers saying “This house belongs to a drug trafficker.”
BGB Director (Operation) Lt Col Fayzur Rahman said they do not hold media parade of the arrested persons and keep these photographs mainly for internal records.
He also claimed journalists collect these pictures or videos of suspects using their own sources.
Media parading hindering investigations
Former Appellate Division judge AHM Shamsuddin Choudhury, who pronounced the judgment against the media parade of arrested persons, suggested that anyone with relevant evidence of the violation of HC directives should file a contempt of court petition.
When contacted, Mizanur Rahman, former chairman of National Human Rights Commission, said: “What we see here is an unhealthy competition between our law enforcement agencies over making an arrest soon after an incident takes place and without a proper investigation. A motivation to flaunt in front of the media is one of the reasons behind it.”
Referring to the arrest of one “Joj Mia” over the 2004 grenade attack on the Awami League rally in Dhaka, he said, “In many cases, law enforces realize they have got the wrong person.”
According him, the executive branch of the state often “unconsciously” takes input from these media calls held by the police, which hinder an independent probe into an incident.
“It’s only natural that the governance system will reflect the ruling party’s will,” said Rahman, while adding: “Law enforcers need the freedom to work without any political influence.”
Talking to Dhaka Tribune, Supreme Court lawyer and rights activist Joytirmoy Barua said that as per the country’s constitution, any order by the apex court is law.
“And all of us are bound to comply with it. The High Court’s order is being neglected over parading suspects before the media,” he said.
He also stressed on a specific legal provision over actions against law enforces for not complying with the court’s order.