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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2966

Wall Street Journal urges Bush Administration to protect Bangladesh journalist Choudhury from persecution

Daya Gamage – US National Correspondent for Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 12 October ( "The Bush administration, which every year spends some $64 million on Bangladesh, has made a priority of identifying moderate Muslims and giving them the space and cover they need to spread their ideas. Mr. Choudhurt has identified himself, at huge personal risk, as one such Muslim. Now that he is on the run, somewhere in the darkness of Dhaka, will someone in the administration pick up the phone and explain to the Bangladeshis just what America expects of its ‘moderate and tolerant’ friends?", was what October 10 Wall Street Journal said in its OP-ED page appealing to save the life of prominent Bangladesh journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury who is facing sedition, treason and espionage charges in a Dhaka court on Thursday, 12th October.

Asian Tribune, on 10 October, spotlighted his predicament under the caption Bangladeshi Journalist’s Sedition Trial highlighted in the United States.

Choudhury, the editor of Blitz, the largest tabloid English-language weekly in Bangladesh was arrested in November 2003, when he tried to attend a conference in Israel, Imprisoned under extreme difficult conditions, he was released last year after efforts of United States Congressman Mark Kirk.

The Wall Street Journal OP-ED reminds what State Department assistant secretary for South and Central Asia Richard Boucher in congressional testimony this year portrayed Bangladesh as "a traditionally moderate and tolerant country" that shares America’s "commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law."

In recognition of his courage to speak against Islamic extremism, and his effort to promote dialogue between Muslims and Jews, American Jewish Committee presented its Moral Courage Award to him in May 2006 but the Bangladesh government prevented him from visiting the United States to receive the honor.

The Wall Street Journalcontinued to say in its OP-ED page: "In July, the offices of the Weekly Blitz were bombed by Islamic militants. In September (2006), a judge with Islamist ties ordered the case continued, despite the government’s reluctance to prosecute, on the grounds that Mr. Choudhury had hurt the sentiments of Muslims by praising Christians and Jews and spoiling the image of Bangladesh world-wide. Last week, the police detail that had been posted to the Blitz’s offices since the July bombing mysteriously vanished. The next day the offices were ransacked and Mr. Choudhury was badly beaten by a mob of 40 or so people. Over the weekend he lodged a formal complaint with the police, who responded by issuing an arrest warrant for him. Now he’s on the run, fearing torture or worse if he’s taken into custody."

Asian Tribune perused through the March 2006 released U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Human Right Practices for 2005 and found this in the Bangladesh section which gives a dismal picture of that government’s treatment of the free press and freedom of expression: "Attacks on journalists and newspapers, and government efforts to intimidate them, political party activists, and others, occurred frequently. Attacks against journalists by political activists were common during times of political violence, and some journalists were injured in police actions. According to a local human rights organization, 142 journalists were injured, 2 killed, 11 arrested, 4 kidnapped, 53 assaulted, and 249 threatened during the year 2005."

Now, Bangladesh’s most outspoken journalist Mr. Choudhury’s life is in danger, and it is America, which stands these days for the promotion of moderate Islamic ideas, who can persuade its "moderate and tolerant" friend to keep its hands off the free press and freedom of expression and drop all charges against Mr. Choudhury.

- Asian Tribune -

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