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JOURNALISTS PERSECUTED DURING ANTI-CORRUPTION DRIVE

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) are calling for the release of several journalists imprisoned during a crackdown on corruption by Bangladesh's interim government.

On 9 March, police arrested Idris Ali, editor of a local weekly, and MA Muhit, correspondent for the national newspaper "Jugantor". According to the Dhaka-based "Daily Star", local politicians had complained about the journalists after they wrote about corruption.

Two days earlier, CPJ and RSF reported, hundreds of Bangladeshi soldiers and police had raided the newspaper "Janakantha", arrested publisher and editor Atiqullah Khan Masud, and searched his home. Khan Masud, who in late January had openly criticised the imposition of censorship, is in custody for a month on charges of corruption, criminal activities and "tarnishing the country's image abroad."

Since President Iajuddin Ahmed declared a state of emergency on 11 January, about 60 Bangladeshi political figures, including 13 former ministers and the son of the former head of government, have been arrested.

"We are worried that the security forces are confusing the fight against corruption with the crackdown on critics, particularly in the press," RSF said. "We call on the interim government to order the release of all journalists currently imprisoned."

In February, police searched the homes of seven journalists in Rupgonj, near the capital, after articles critical of a police officer were published. Also in February, fires killed at least three people and injured more than 100 at a Dhaka building housing private television stations NTV and RTV and Bengali-language newspaper "Amar Desh". All three outlets are owned by Bangladesh Nationalist Party politician Mosaddek Ali Falu, who had been arrested three weeks earlier in the anti-corruption drive.

Meanwhile, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) demanded an investigation into whether Jamal Uddin was murdered for his journalistic work. The body of Uddin, a local correspondent for the Dhaka-based news agency ABAS and the Rangamati regional paper "Dainik Giridharan", according to the Human Rights Journalist Forum of Bangladesh (BMSF), was found on 6 March.

Visit these sites:
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=21306
- CPJ: http://www.cpj.org/news/2007/asia/bangla08march07na.html
- IFJ: http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?Index=4722&Language=EN

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