New York, December 3, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the detention of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor of the tabloid weekly Blitz, who was arrested by security personnel at Zia International Airport in the capital, Dhaka.
According to local news reports, Choudhury was on his way to Israel on November 29 to participate in a conference with the Hebrew Writers Association when he was arrested at the airport on charges of espionage. Intelligence agents interrogated Choudhury at the airport and confiscated his luggage, according to The Daily Star. Choudhury's home was also raided, according to The Independent newspaper.
The journalist is accused of having links to an Israeli intelligence agency and has been under surveillance for the last several months, according to The Daily Star. Choudhury denies the charges, according to The Independent, but will be held without bail for seven days.
Bangladesh has no formal relations with Israel, and travel to Israel is illegal for Bangladeshi citizens. CPJ is investigating the motives behind Choudhury's detention. He was traveling to address a writers' symposium in Tel Aviv titled "Bridges Through Culture" and was scheduled to speak about "the role of media in establishing peace," according to the organizer of the conference. Choudhury would have been the first journalist from Bangladesh to address such a group in Israel.
Choudhury recently opened a branch of the Israel-based International Forum for Literature and Culture of Peace, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting world peace, and is known for his work to improve relations and understanding between Muslim countries and Israel. He has written articles against anti-Israeli attitudes in Muslim countries and recently wrote about the rise of al-Qaeda in Bangladesh.
Police sources told The Daily Star that Choudhury would also be charged with sedition. Choudhury previously worked as managing director of Inqilab Television, a privately owned channel.
"The detention and charges against Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury are outrageous," said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. "Journalists must be allowed to travel freely, without government harassment, to meet with their colleagues. We call on Bangladeshi authorities to free Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury immediately, and to drop these charges against him."