Press freedom in Bangladesh and arrest of acclaimed photographer Shahidul Alam, among other issues, came up in an event on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Friday, according to UN News.
According to the United Nations news portal, the side event was organised by the Committee to Protect Journalists, a US-based non-governmental organisation promoting press freedom and advocating the rights of journalists worldwide.
Cases of imprisoned journalists, including those of Alaa Abdelfattah of Egypt and Azimjon Askarov of Kyrgyzstan, both arrested while covering alleged human rights abuses by security forces, Shahidul Alam of Bangladesh, imprisoned while covering student protests, camp up.
The high profile case of two Reuters journalists in Myanmar, Kyaw Soe Oo also known as Moe Aung and Wa Lone also known as Thet Oo Maung, sentenced to seven years in jail, on charges of violating the country’s official secrets act while covering the massacre of the Rohingyas by the Myanmar military in September 2017 was also discussed.
According to the non-profit group, CPJ, at the end of 2017, a total of 262 journalists were jailed, including over 70 in Turkey, 40 in China, and 20 in Egypt.
About 52 per cent of those jailed were behind bars because of their reporting on human rights violations, according to CPJ.
‘Governments around the world routinely use emergency laws to censor media outlets and publications,’ said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director.
‘Increasingly they also bring “fake news” charges against journalists who contradict official statements. They try journalists in military courts and hold them in pre-trial detention indefinitely,’ he said.
‘These are all actions that contradict international human rights law, and the standards set by the UN,’ he stressed.
The UN warns that the ‘imprisonment of journalists for their legitimate work not only fosters a culture of self-censorship but also impinges on the broader rights of society to obtain information.’
Shahidul Alam is a renowned photojournalist, commentator, and founder of a Bangladeshi multimedia organisation.
According to the CPJ website on Saturday, Shahidul was arrested while covering student protests in Bangladesh.
A day later, a Dhaka court ordered that he be held for seven days to determine if he violated Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act by spreading propaganda and false information.
‘When Shahidul was brought into court, he screamed that had been tortured. He was unable to walk without assistance. Nearly two months later, he remains behind bars’.
The CPJ boss in his statement also said the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights released a report that concluded ‘the entire criminal process against Shahidul Alam has been only a means of intimidation and retaliation and a gross subversion of the Bangladesh justice system.’
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