Eminent citizens of the country have expressed fear that the case filed against Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman and four others could be used to muzzle the media in the country. They urged the concerned authorities to refrain from any such attempt.
In a statement sent to the media on Tuesday, 18 eminent citizens said, “Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Judge's court recently (12 November) framed charges against five persons of Prothom Alo including the editor Matiur Rahman over the sad demise of Dhaka Residential Model College student Naimul Abrar. The framing of charges, especially against the Prothom Alo editor, has surprised and concerned us.”
The statement adds, Naimul Abrar was electrocuted during an anniversary event of Kishor Alo at Dhaka Residential Model School and College sports ground on 1 November last year. The incident was an unwarranted and tragic one. However, the event was not of Prothom Alo but of its magazine Kishor Alo. The Prothom Alo editor was not even present at the event. Initially Naimul Abrar's father Mojibur Rahman filed an unnatural death case with a police station after the incident. He later filed a separate complaint case with the court.
The eminent citizens said, “We think this case is a continuation of the perennial attacks on the freedom of press in the country and this case cannot be separated from the instances of harassment cases filed against freethinking editors including Matiur Rahman in the past. We urge the authorities to keep the door of getting legal remedy open for the Prothom Alo editor and others accused in the case.”
"We fear that this type of case can be used to shrink freedom of the editor and media as a whole. We urge all to refrain from such endeavors,” the statement adds.
The signatories to the statement are: Emeritus professor of Dhaka University Serajul Islam Choudhury, researcher and language movement veteran Ahmad Rafique, litterateur Hasan Azizul Huq, former adviser to a caretaker government M Hafizuddin Khan, Central Women's University’s vice-chancellor Perween Hasan, retired professor of Dhaka University’s Bangla department Abul Kashem Fazlul Haq, former cabinet secretary Ali Imam Majumder, human rights activist Sultana Kamal, former election commissioner Brigadier General (retd) M Sakhawat Hossain, actor, playwright and director Mamunur Rashid, former adviser to a caretaker government Rasheda K Chowdhury, author and educationist Syed Manzoorul Islam, former professor of economics department of Chattogram University Moinul Islam, Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik’s secretary Badiul Alam Majumdar, local government expert Tofail Ahmed, Transparency International Bangladesh executive director Iftekharuzzaman, Bangladesh Supreme Court lawyer Shahdeen Malik, and Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association’s chief executive Syeda Rizwana Hasan.