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IPI calls on new government to investigate past crimes against journalists

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is a 5 March 2009 IPI press release:

IPI Calls for Full Reckoning of Past Crimes against Journalists in Bangladesh

VIENNA, 5 March 2009 - In a letter to Bangladesh's new president, Zillur Rahman, IPI Director David Dadge expressed concern about the pressure placed on news organisations by the weak rule of law and the perceived lack of judicial independence in Bangladesh.

An IPI high-level mission, including the IPI director, travelled to Bangladesh in late 2008 to meet with top media and political figures. The mission found that impunity in the crimes against journalists and judicial harassment of journalists in connection with their reporting are two of the most serious threats to media freedom and investigative journalism in Bangladesh.

Stressing how the December 2008 national elections, following almost two years of emergency rule, represented the beginning of a new era in Bangladesh, Dadge called on the president, who was sworn in on 12 February, to "build on this great achievement by strengthening the rule of law and ensuring that the judicial system operates independent of politics."

Dadge also urged the newly elected government of Bangladesh to investigate crimes against journalists, and remove legal obstacles to press freedom.

Also today, IPI applauded the Bangladeshi government's commitment to democracy during a recent mutiny by border guards. "I very much welcome the government's response to this present crisis. In previous times, Bangladeshi governments have too often been willing to pass emergency laws, as well as suppress the media. Instead, the present government has chosen to allow the media to inform the public, giving everyone a better understanding of events as they occur," Dadge said.
"The actions of the Bangladeshi government are in stark contrast to many other countries in Asia, such as China and Burma, which have regularly silenced media during a crisis. I think it sends a very strong message to these leaders that it is better to face the truth than hide from it."

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