Journalists be given fair trial, US asks BD
WASHINGTON- The US State Department has urged Bangladesh to provide legal and consular services to two foreign journalists being held on sedition charges.
Briton Zaiba Malik and Italian Bruno Sorrentino were produced before a magistrate’s court on December 1, 2002, which sent them to jail for allegedly entering Bangladesh on “false identities” and “conspiring against the country.”
They will remain in jail until a date is set for their trial or until they are released on bail.
Bangladeshi authorities say they arrested the two journalists on Nov 25 while they crossed the Indian border without proper documents.
“We strongly urge the Bangladesh government to provide the journalists … with full access to legal counsel and consular services through their embassies,” said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. “Once again we reiterate that a free press is critically important for the functioning of a democratic system.”
Boucher said the Bangladesh government and law enforcement authorities had the responsibility to ensure any actions taken against journalists are carried out rapidly and transparently, “leaving no question about possible interference with press freedoms.”
The two European journalists, on assignment for Britain’s Channel 4, were jailed after a week of questioning over alleged “anti-state activities,” court officials said.
Malik, a British national of Pakistani origin, and Sorrentino were arrested Nov 25 when they tried to leave Bangladesh and the authorities seized film and documents from them.
A government statement accused the two of being “involved in clandestine activities as journalists with an apparent and malicious intent of portraying Bangladesh as an Islamic fanatical country.”