Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Bangladesh editor faces 175 yrs' jail over unusual confession

Mar 29 2016 : The Times of India (Chennai)
B'desh editor faces 175 yrs' jail over unusual confession

The math alone is a bewildering exercise for Mahfuz Anam, the editor of Bangladesh's most popular English anguage newspaper. Since February , the number of legal claims against him has climbed to 79 cases: 62 for defama ion and 17 for sedition.If convicted in all of the cases, Anam faces a prison sen ence of up to 175 years. In the meantime, he is obliged to crisscross the country for hearings in 50 of the country's 64 judicial districts, and is petitioning the high court to consolidate them. In some instances, he said, “I might have to physical ly appear in more than one place on the same day.“
Officials say the government is not behind the barrage of litigation, though many of the cases were filed by activists with the ruling Awami Lea gue, and at least one by an assistant public pro secutor. They were filed after Anam made an unusual public confession, expressing regret rticles that his newspa over articles that his newspaper, The Daily Star, published years ago on uncorroborated allegations of corruption aga inst the current PM Sheikh Hasina. Hasina's control over Bangladesh's political system has tightened since 2014, when the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party boycotted parliamentary elections and the Awami League swept the polls, virtually unopposed.
With political opposition dwindling, it has become increasingly risky to publish material critical of the government.Twenty-five defamation cases are underway against Matiur Rahman, the editor of Prothom Alo, The Daily Star's sister paper and the country's second most popular Bengali newspaper.
Asif Nazrul, a law professor at the University of Dhaka, said, “These cases are a strong signal to not just Anam but to all media that if you go beyond the limits that have been set, then you too can be prosecuted for sedition.“

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