Police stand guard ahead of general elections in Dhaka in January 2024. CPJ called on Bangladeshi authorities to immediately drop all charges against journalist Md Shofiuzzaman Rana and investigate the harassment of five journalists in northern Lalmonirhat district on March 20, 2024. (Photo: AFP/Munir Uz Zaman)

Journalist Md Shofiuzzaman Rana arrested, 5 correspondents confined in Bangladesh government office

New York, March 20, 2024—Bangladesh authorities must immediately drop all charges against journalist Md Shofiuzzaman Rana and investigate the harassment of five journalists in northern Lalmonirhat district, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.

Rana was held in jail for a week after police arrested the journalist on March 5. Rana, who works for the Bangla-language newspaper Desh Rupantor, was arrested at a local government office in the northern Sherpur district after he filed a right to information (RTI) application regarding a government-run development program, according to news reports, the local press freedom group Bangladeshi Journalists in International Media, and Mustafa Mamun, acting editor of Desh Rupantor.

Later that day, an assistant land commissioner, who is also an executive magistrate, sentenced the journalist to six months in prison on charges of disobeying an order by a public servant and insulting the modesty of a woman. The action was taken through a mobile court, which is empowered to try offenses instantly.

Mohammad Ali Arafat, state minister for information and broadcasting, stated that the country’s information commission would investigate the incident and told CPJ that he would receive a copy of the commission’s investigative report on Monday, March 18.

Arafat did not immediately respond to CPJ’s subsequent requests for comment on the report’s findings. Mamun told CPJ that as of Wednesday, he had not received a copy of the report.

Separately, at around 12 p.m. on March 14, employees at an assistant land commissioner’s office in Lalmonirhat held Mahfuz Sazu, a correspondent for the broadcaster mytv and the newspaper The Daily Observer, after the journalist filmed a land dispute hearing allegedly conducted by an unauthorized official, according to news reports, Bangladeshi Journalists in International Media, and the journalist, who spoke to CPJ.

Twenty minutes later, four members of the Lalmonirhat Press Club arrived to help Sazu and were also confined within the premises. After a district revenue commissioner arrived at the scene, the five journalists were released around 12:50 p.m.

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