Scribes' body voices concern over reporter's detention in B'desh

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New York, Oct 25 (UNI) The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has expressed concern over the detention of Bangladeshi reporter Jahangir Alam Akash, who was taken from his home in the northwestern city of Rajshahi by members of an elite government task force.

''We are troubled by the detention of Jahangir Alam Akash who has a history of being harassed because of his investigative reporting,'' CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said yesterday, adding, ''We call on the authorities to release him immediately.'' Akash, a reporter for 'Dainik Sangbad', was jailed on an extortion charge, the second such allegation made against him this month, news reports said quoting Mainul Islam Khan, a press advocate for the Bangladesh Center for Development Journalism and Communication.

Akash was still being held and had not appeared in court. Prior to the arrest, he told CPJ that he had been charged on a separate extortion allegation.

CPJ is a New York-based non-profit organisation working independently to safeguard press freedom across the world.

According to local press freedom groups, authorities are targeting Akash in reprisal for his reporting. The new complaint was filed by an individual who had been jailed on an assault charge after an investigation by Akash, the Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights said. The Rapid Action Battalion, an elite anti-crime and anti-terrorism force under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Home Affairs, took Akash into custody.

Last week, in an e-mail interview with CPJ, Akash said that an influential local contractor, Mahfuzul Alam Loton, had accused him of extorting money. Akash had reported critically about Loton's family and associates on at least three occasions.

About 50 local journalists expressed their concern about the earlier charge in a statement issued on Monday.

Akash has faced many instances of harassment. In August, he told CPJ he had been threatened by a leader of the Rapid Action Battalion. He worked for the television news channel CSB until it closed on a permanent basis, shortly after its transmission was suspended by the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission. The 24-hour network had received notice from the Press Information Department not to broadcast provocative news, according to CPJ.


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