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Dhaka Tribune

CPJ calls on prime minister to release journalist Kajol

Shafiqul Islam Kajol has been suffering from various ailments and has a high risk of contracting Covid-19 in jail

Update : 02 Oct 2020, 05:40 PM

The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent non-government organization that champions press freedom around the world, wrote to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to arrange for the immediate and unconditional release of jailed journalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol. His ill health makes him especially vulnerable to Covid-19 infection, potentially putting his life in danger.

Imprisoned journalists have no control over their surroundings, cannot choose to isolate, and are often denied necessary medical care. Some individuals appear to be at particular risk of severe illness or death linked to Covid-19, including people with pre-existing medical conditions.

In the letter, CPJ wrote: “We remain very concerned about the indiscriminate use of the Digital Security Act against Kajol and other journalists in Bangladesh, and have documented many misuses of this law against the press.”

Kajol is suffering from a variety of physical ailments. He has told his son, who spoke to CPJ, that he has trouble seeing after being blindfolded for 52 days. 

Additionally, his left arm is paralyzed, and he was vomiting, including vomiting blood, his son said. 

The Daily Star reported that many guards at the prison where Kajol is being held have been infected with Covid-19. Kajol is now suffering from a fever and needs immediate medical attention, his son told CPJ.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been explicit about the increased vulnerability of detainees to contract Covid-19.

The current danger to Kajol is significant, read the letter. CPJ calls on the prime minister to instruct the Home Affairs Minister to drop the charges against him immediately. 

“At a minimum, we ask that you instruct the minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, to stop opposing bail, so that Kajol can be released and recover his health at home,” wrote CPJ. 

Kajol, a photographer and editor of the biweekly Pakkhakal magazine, disappeared on March 10 only to reappear near the border with India in early May, blindfolded and apparently held against his will during that time. 

His disappearance followed the filing of three separate cases against him in Dhaka under the Digital Security Act for alleged derogatory online postings. 

After his reappearance, Kajol was immediately arrested on trespassing charges, granted bail, then subsequently rearrested and then held under Section 54 of the Criminal Procedure Code. 

He was transferred to a jail in Dhaka and has been repeatedly denied bail, most recently on September 14, according to news reports.

In a meeting with CPJ in December 2017, then minister of Information, Hasanul Haq Inu, admitted police had misused the predecessor law, Section 57 of the Information and Communication Act, against journalists and promised that safeguards would be introduced to prevent this in the new Digital Security Act. 

Unfortunately, this was not done and as a result, many journalists including Kajol, have been unfairly targeted by the law.

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