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Dhaka Tribune

US says concerned by oppression of journalists in Bangladesh

  • State Dept responds to question on conviction of Shafik Rehman, Mahmudur Rahman
  • They were convicted of plotting to abduct, kill Sajeeb Wazed Joy
Update : 13 Sep 2023, 12:47 PM

The US State Department on Tuesday expressed its concerns about Bangladesh’s “systematic and pervasive oppression of journalists and media personalities who attempt to hold the government accountable” while replying to a question on the conviction of Shafik Rehman and Mahmudur Rahman, journalists linked to the BNP and Jamaat. 

The two of them were convicted in a case filed in connection with an attempted abduction and murder of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's son Sajeeb Wazed Joy in the United States.

A Dhaka court on August 17 sentenced five people, including senior journalist Shafik Rehman and former acting editor of Amar Desh newspaper Mahmudur Rahman, to seven years in jail in the case filed in 2015.

The three other convicts are Mohammad Ullah Mamun, vice president of Jatiyatabadi Samajik Sangskritik Sangstha, the opposition BNP’s cultural wing; his son Rizvi Ahmed Caesar; and Mizanur Rahman Bhuiyan, a businessman.

In March 2015, a US court convicted Rizvi of bribing an FBI agent for information on a Bangladeshi political figure. The US Justice Department did not name the politician.

In a Facebook post on March 9, 2015, Joy accused BNP leaders of conspiring to abduct and kill him.

According to the case details, Shafik, Mahmudur, Mamun, and several other leaders of the BNP and its allies met in several places – in Dhaka, New York and the UK – in 2011 and plotted to abduct and kill Joy in the US.

Shafik also allegedly met with Caesar, then-FBI special agent Robert Lustyik and Lustyik’s friend Johannes Thaler in the UK, the US and Bangladesh in 2012 to finalize the plot, the police said.

The case was filed on August 3, 2015 by the Detective Branch (DB) of police at Paltan police station.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said: “We believe, as we’ve said on a number of occasions, that journalists play an essential role in any democracy. Their work uncovers corruption, safeguards the public’s right to know information that affects their lives.

“They need to be able to make the public aware of the issues that they face in their daily lives. They need to ensure accountability for elected officials the way that you all show up and ensure accountability for what I say here every day.

“They must be able to do their jobs without fear of harassment, violence, or intimidation. And we are concerned with the government of Bangladesh’s systematic and pervasive oppression of journalists and media personalities who attempt to hold the government accountable.”

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