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Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury was imprisoned for 17 months after being charged with sedition on November 29, 2003. The Bangladeshi journalist put himself in a highly precarious position by openly advocating relations between Israel and Bangladesh, along with all Muslim nations.
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My day in court
A letter from a friend of Israel
Signs of progress

 
Bangladesh, the Big Time, and Brothers in Journalism
By Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury   March 28, 2008


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They have proved it again. Prestigious newspaper The Wall Street Journal has published an editorial titled 'Bangladesh on Trial' on March 27, 2008. Earlier, it published a powerful opinion editorial by celebrated journalist and my brother Bret Stephens in 2006 titled 'Darkness in Dhaka'.

In this opinion editorial, Bret wrote: "Welcome to Bangladesh, a country the State Department's Richard Boucher recently portrayed in congressional testimony as "a traditionally moderate and tolerant country" that shares America's "commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law." That's an interesting way to describe a country that is regularly ranked as the world's most corrupt by Transparency International and whose governing coalition, in addition to the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, includes two fundamentalist Islamic parties that advocate the imposition of Shariah law. There are an estimated 64,000 madrassas (religious schools) in Bangladesh. The Ministry of Industries is in the hands of Motiur Rahman Nizami, a radical Islamist with a reputation of a violent past. In March the Peace Corps was forced to leave the country for fear of terrorist attacks. Seven other journalists have also been brought up on sedition charges by Ms. Zia's government, most of them for attempting to document Bangladesh's repression of religious minorities."

He wrote, "Here's an answer: Bangladesh does not mean much strategically to the U.S., except for the fact that it is home to some 120 million Muslims, many of them desperately poor and increasingly under the sway of violent religious notions imported from Saudi Arabia. The Bush administration, which every year spends some $64 million on Bangladesh, has made a priority of identifying moderate Muslims and giving them the space and cover they need to spread their ideas. Mr. Choudhury has identified himself, at huge personal risk, as one such Muslim. Now that he is on the run, somewhere in the darkness of Dhaka, will someone in the administration pick up the phone and explain to the Bangladeshis just what America expects of its "moderate and tolerant" friends?"

Last year, when I visited United States in October, Bret Stephens very kindly gave me the precious opportunity of visiting their office in New York along with my brother Richard Benkin. I witnessed with great admiration, the huge office of this prestigious newspaper, met its excellent members and above all, Bret interviewed me for the video site of Wall Street Journal. In Bret Stephens, I have found a very loving brother and a caring colleague, who finds time in defending and fighting for a rather unknown journalist like me in a less known country like Bangladesh.

Just few days before I visited the Wall Street Journal, globally known media tycoon Rupert Murdoch bought this newspaper with few billion dollars. Bret did not forget to show me the office chamber, which was prepared to accommodate Mr. Murdoch. He also took me to the memorial space in memory of internationally known journalist Daniel Pearl, inside the WSJ building. Daniel Pearl was killed by nasty Al Qaeda goons. Right at that moment, my entire entity was thrilled to be there to show my highest respect for a true hero, a journalist and a fellow brother. Sacrifice of Pearl shall tell the world, people who work in Wall Street Journal do not fear in telling the truth or exposing evils in the world.

When I went to United States again in November last year, Bret Stephens walked out of his office in the extreme peak hour of his work, and met me right in front of the New York Stock Exchange Building [adjacent to Wall Street Journal building] and hosted me and brother Benkin in a nearby restaurant. This time too, he was trying to know about my situation in Bangladesh and the status of the false case Bangladeshi Islamist coalition government did bring against me in 2004 [24th January]. When Brother Richard told him that Prince Albert of Monaco was going to give Monaco Media Award to a journalist for 'courage in journalism', Bret could very quickly guess who the potential recipient of this award is.

Whenever I am in United States, I have the rarest opportunity of picking my cell phone to call Bret Stephens, as to me, he is not the celebrity journalist, or someone holding extremely important position in world's largest newspaper. To me, he is a loving brother and someone, who cares about me.

Although my case was first brought to global attention in 2003, when The New York Times published an editorial describing my arrest and repression, in subsequent years, Wall Street Journal, New York Sun and Washington Times have been closely monitoring my case and published a number of editorials and opinion editorials demanding dropping of the false charges and ending harassments. Voice of America has also played important role in my defense.

The latest editorial in Wall Street Journal starts saying "Bangladesh's military caretaker government says it is serious about restoring democracy and the rule of law to the country. But Dhaka's escalating harassment of one of its most prominent journalists suggests otherwise."

It further said, "The world can't afford for Bangladesh's transition to democracy to fail, and Mr. Choudhury's case is one test of the government's commitment to keeping the influence of Islamists in check."

Since the incident of March 18 [Tuesday] in my office, there are numerous reports and articles already published in international media, including the recent editorial in Wall Street Journal, Bangladeshi administration is very reluctant in investigating the matter and taking actions against the culprits. Such silence of the government is giving encouragements to Rapid Action Battalion [RAB] and other nasty elements in continuing threatening me and members of Weekly Blitz of dire consequence, if our protests do not silence. Even on Friday morning, someone called our office and threatened of further harassment. Members of my newspaper are worried. Members of my family are worried as well. But, I am continuing to give them confidence by telling, if we stop, devils will become victorious. Under any circumstance, we shall not become silent. I am ready to die in the hands of Islamists. Daniel Pearl is my model. Fear or retreat is not in my vocabulary. Let my enemies take note of it.

Views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of israelinsider.


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