Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Bangladeshi Brother Needs Our Help: Here's How

Bangladeshi journalist Salahuddin Shoaib Chaudhury is to go on trial tomorrow in Dakha on charges of blasphemy, and also on what are obviously false charges of sedition and espionage. This is only the latest event in a harrowing ordeal Brother Chaudhury has had to suffer over the past three years. He may be on the run at the moment. He has every reason to fear a fraudulent conviction and a sentence of up to 30 years’ imprisonment, or execution.

We might be able to do something to intervene on Brother Chaudhury's behalf. Just by writing letters. But first, a bit of background.

Mr. Chaudhury’s troubles began in 2003 after he decided to use the pages of his newspaper, the weekly Blitz (its web page seems to have disappeared), to argue for greater friendship and cooperation among and between Muslims, Christians and Jews. His newspaper routinely editorialized against the extremism that was growing in Bangladeshi madrassahs. He personally argued that the People’s Republic of Bangladesh should open diplomatic relations with the State of Israel.

Mr. Chaudhury has suffered torture and 16 months in solitary confinement where he was refused medical treatment for his glaucoma. Last week, the Blitz offices, which had been previously firebombed, were attacked and looted, and Mr. Chaudhury, who has been refused police protection, was beaten and robbed.

One of the charges against Mr. Chaudhury is a minor passport offence, which usually carries a fine in the equivalent of about CAN $10. It arises from his attempt to accept an invitation to speak to a convention of the Hebrew Writers’ Association on the topic "the role of media in establishing peace." The case against him also arises from his alleged communications with the Israel-based International Forum for the Literature and Culture of Peace.

The reports and archives of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange document his case. The International Federation of Journalists has been watching. To get a sense of the kind of honest journalism that got Mr. Chaudhury into trouble, read this essay. The Asian Tribune has a report here.

Here's how you can help.

Bangladesh has a reputation for press freedom that couldn't be worse (well, not until you get down there with Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Libya and places like that) and its government knows the world has started watching, so it might be responsive to a campaign on Mr. Chaudhury's behalf.

Canadian readers of the Chronicles web log could write letters to Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, 125 Sussex Drive Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G2, ( and also to Rafiq Ahmed Khan, High Commissioner for Bangladesh to Canada, 275 Bank Street, Suite 302, Ottawa, Ontario K2P 2L6 ( All correspondence should be cc'd to Liberal Opposition Leader Bill Graham (, the NDP's Jack Layton ( and the Bloc Quebecois' Gilles Duceppe (

I've written mine already. Doesn't need to take much time. Pass the word around as well.

MacKay should be asked to intervene on humanitarian grounds and also on the grounds that Mr. Chaudhury's treatment is in clear violation of Section 19 of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And when you write to the Bangladeshi High Commissioner, be sure to keep a civil tongue in your head.

So come on, you slackers. Remember Manik, and start writing.


Blogger Bill Horne said...

Hi Terry:
the October piece needs a wee update for Lib. Opposition Leader and contact info:

DION, Stéphane (Liberal)
Parliamentary Address
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6
Telephone: (613) 996-5789
Fax: (613) 996-6562

4:23 PM  

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