The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed serious concerns over a barrage of legal cases filed against The Daily Star editor Mahfuz Anam.
It said the attempt to pursue coordinated legal proceedings against the editor was a clear attempt to intimidate the media and muzzle press freedom in Bangladesh.
The IFJ issued the statement on Tuesday, joining the Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangbadik Forum (BMSF) in expressing worry over the matter.
More than three dozen cases, including sedition pleas and defamation suits, have been filed so far across the country against Mahfuz Anam.
“The IFJ is seriously concerned by the legal harassment of Mahfuz Anam as result of reporting in the public interest at a time of political crisis. The high number of cases and the filing of these across the country indicate an aggressive politically-motivated effort to harass a senior editor and a key newspaper in the Bangladesh,” read the statement.
The legal actions followed Anam’s admission of a lapse in editorial judgement in publishing reports based on information supplied by the intelligence cell during the 2007-08 caretaker government.
The IFJ said the use of sedition and defamation laws in this case is “extremely concerning”.
“Sedition laws are regarded as a relic of the past but are too often being revived as a means to silence political opposition and criticism in the region. This is a worrying development in an already extremely challenged media environment of Bangladesh.”
The IFJ mentioned that The Daily Star has been the subject of harassment in the past by the government. “It has also suffered massive losses in advertising revenue after Bangladeshi authorities forced a leading telecommunication company Grameenphone to stop advertising.”
“It is critical that legal system is not used by some groups to harass the journalist and media and we urge the judiciary to intervene in the matter to ensure a full and fair trial, with all cases being heard in one court,” the IFJ said.