The Prime Minister
Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.

07 June 2010

Dear Madam,

We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned by the recent news report on the arrest of Mr. Mahmudur Rahman and the ban order on the newspaper Amardesh and the cases filed against the journalist and staffs of that paper.

We were elated at the smooth transition to democracy in our country and your assumption of power. Your call for changes gave us hope of transition to a nation of democratic values. This made us proud and convinced us that with the overwhelming mandate, you and your party would help us hold our heads high on a sustainable basis.

We, living abroad, are used to responsibilities that become an integral part of good governance. In this respect, the role of media is critical and is indeed one of the indicators of performance. Also, tolerance ensures sustainability of democracy. We had faltered time and again during our existence as an independent country and these are some of the questions we face from citizens of democratic societies that we live in now. Our nation and the people had to pay dearly for the failure to uphold democratic values. These, in turn, retarded progress.

We are not in a position to judge whether acts of Mr. Rahman were correct or not on moral grounds. But it does not require much intelligence to see recent acts of the Government are biased and vengeful and convey unmistakable sign of intolerance. Any attempt on censorship, especially in a democratic society, makes the government weak and questionable. We must add that flow of information is an essential part of a digital society, which indeed is one of the stated objectives of your government. In due course the present acts will face focused and harsh condemnation as examples of blatant violation of the freedom of expression.

We feel that if Mr. Rahman is guilty of defamation, our judicial system can take credible decisions. Extra-judicial and unethical acts like arrests, remand, banning the newspaper Amardesh and filing cases of different descriptions, including those against the journalists and staff of that paper, carry ominous signs. It appears that you are feeding straight into the paranoia of those who love painting the Awami League as an intolerant party and of which you are the leader. We take these as counter-productive to your intentions, or could even be the precursors to some unknown agenda. This is extremely disquieting.

In the name of Democracy, fair play and justice, we therefore urge you to release Mr. Mahmudur Rahman and to withdraw the ban on the newspaper Amardesh. We also request you to withdraw the cases filed against the journalists and staff of the paper. If you have other allegations, including defamation, let the person(s) directly hurt go to the court.

We humbly request you to recollect the experience of the movement on ‘six points’ of the 1960’s, when any act of repression by the-then rulers added to convictions of not only the father of the nation but also of millions of the people. We urge you not to step into a self-created trap. Let the people decide—and that is the essence of democracy. Help us, Madam, holding our heads higher and taller as the citizens of a civilized country called Bangladesh, where, in spite of severe challenges, the nation is resolved to build a democratic society.

Yours very sincerely,

1.  Dr. Hasanat M. Husain MBE, Convenor, Voice For Justice World Forum
2.  Dr. Hasan Zillur Rahim, Joint Convenor, VFJ World Forum, San Jose/Santa Clara, USA
3.  Dr. Tajul Islam Hashmi, Joint Convenor, VFJ World Forum, Honolulu, USA
4.  Dr. M. A. Malik, Member, VFJ World Forum, Cardiff, UK
5.  Mr. Enam Choudhury, Joint Convenor, VFJ World Forum, Stockholm, Sweden
6.  Mr. Sadek Rahman, Joint Convenor, VFJ World Forum, London, UK
7.  Mr. Hasan Mahmood, Joint Convenor, VFJ World Forum, Toronto, Canada
8.  Engg. Vasudeva, Joint Convenor, VFJ World Forum, Delhi, India
9.  Mr. Anwar Shahed Khan, Joint Convenor, VFJ World Forum, Karachi, Pakistan

10. Mr. Ejazur Rahman, Joint Convenor, VFJ World Forum, Kuwait

11. Mrs. Shahida Husain, Member, VFJ World Forum, London, UK
12. Mr. Shamsul Alam Liton, Member, VFJ World Forum, London, UK
13. Mr. Zoglul Hussain, Member, VFJ World Forum, London, UK
14. Engg. Tariq Bin Aziz, Member, VFJ World Forum, London, UK
15. Dr. M. H. B. Dumbell, Member, VFJ World Forum, London, UK
16. Mr. Asif Armani, Member, VFJ World Forum, London, UK
17. Accountant Mr. Mamun Rahman, Member, VFJ World Forum, UK
18. Cllr. Ayesha Choudhury, Member, VFJ World Forum, Newham, UK
19. Barrister Firoz, Member, VFJ World Forum, UK
20. Mr. Mahmud Hasan, Member, VFJ World Forum, Rome, Italy