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Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudury

Bangladeshi Press Should Support one of Its Own

Thursday November 23 2006 20:15:19 PM BDT

By Hannah Brown, USA

It is time for the Bangladeshi press to stand up for one of its own, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury.

Last week, the European Parliament passed three human rights resolutions. The resolutions expressed serious concerns that the EU had about Ethiopia, Iran, and Bangladesh.

As expected, the resolutions made for big news around the world and especially in the countries the resolutions targeted. The Bangladeshi press devoted a great deal of space to the action; and hardly a paper could be found that did not mention it. Point Seven of the resolution about Bangladesh concerned a specific case: that of Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudury.

That part of the resolution was big news in several countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere. But the Bangladeshi press—except for Choudhury’s own and one other paper—was silent. It did not matter where the paper stood across the political spectrum on other issues—pro-BNP, pro-radical, or pro-Awami League—the silence was equally deafening among Bangladesh’s journalists.

This seeming conspiracy of silence has caused observers in the West to wonder about Bangladeshi claims of a vibrant and independent press. Some observers have suggested that it is because Choudhury supports Israel, and there is a policy among the Bangladeshi press that is anti-Israeli.

Choudhury’s principle supporter, American Dr. Richard L. Benkin, has told me that when pressed on the matter, several Bangladeshis have made allusions to the fact that some people do not like Choudhury. “When I asked ministers at the Bangladesh embassy in Washington in 2004 why Shoaib was in jail, they said all they could come up with was that there are people who don’t like him. The Ambassador even told Mark Kirk and me that it was all a ‘personal financial dispute.’

Whatever the reason—and most of the world believes that it goes much deeper than personal animosity—it is undisputed that Choudhury was arrested and tortured and is now on trial for sedition, treason, and blasphemy because of things he wrote as a journalist. In virtually every other county, that would rally the entire press community—whether they like or agree with the oppressed journalist or not—to stand up for freedom of the press. Parliaments from Canada to Australia are saying so; so is the US Congress and the European Parliament. But the Bangladeshi press remains silent. And the entire world is asking why.

Bangladeshi journalists have been killed in greater numbers than their colleagues in other countries; Choudhury is standing up to those who are guilty, but the Bangladeshi press is silent.

Bangladesh is threatened by radicals who have set of terrorist bombs throughout the country and have a history of repressing a free press; Choudhury is standing up to them, too, and identifying the threat they pose, but the Bangladeshi press is silent.

It is time for the Bangladeshi press to stand up for one of its own, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury.

Hannah Brown is a California journalism student who has published articles locally in California and in Bangladesh, as well. E Mail :


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