MideastWeb Middle East Web Log
When someone speaks out for what every decent person believes, he deserves the support of every decent person. When his life is threatened for his stands, the world should stand with him. Sadly it seems that is not the case. Since I last wrote about the ordeal of Bangladesh journalist Salahuddin Shoaib Choudhury, there have been no dramatic developments. Choudhury spoke out for moderation and dialogue with Israel, and warned about Islamist extremism. This earned him about 18 months in jail, an indictment for sedition, and violence perpetrated against himself, his newspaper staff and his offices.
Some human rights groups took up his cause, a few journals and a few congresspeople have tried to help him. However, the United States State Department, so anxious to promote Muslim democracy, has been largely silent. The great journals of the world that are usually so concerned about rights of journalists and freedom of the press are largely silent. There have been no outraged editorials in the Guardian, The Independent, the Washington Post, the Nation. The New York Times ran a single op-ed on his case in 2003. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been silent. Their silence is deafening. HRW posted an item about beating of Bangladesh journalists, but they have resolutely ingored Salah's case.
Concerned about his plight, I wrote to the Washington Post. Jeff Weintraub took up the story and tells it better than I can below.
Please do write to mainstream newspaper editors to HRW, Amnesty, your local officials, and the Bangladesh government representatives in your country. Some of the addresses we gave previously for Bangladesh officials do not work. Their government is in flux, and that can only make the situation worse.
Here are addresses that should be functional:
Mr. Md. Lutfozzaman Babar
Mr. Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury
Bangladesh Consulate in New York
Amnesty International Contact Information:
Please be civil in all communications, and please represent Salah's case for what it is - a human rights and civil rights case, regardless of political overtones. No journalist should be jailed for publishing his opinion, and nobody should be tried for "sedition" for expressing their ideas. Please ask rights groups and newspapers to stand up for what they are supposed to believe in.
The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh [see here & here --JW] is well deserved.Ami Isseroff (of MidEastWeb), who has paid close attention to Choudhury's case, sent a follow-up letter to the Washington Post that powerfully drives this point home. It's worth putting in boldface: Choudhury "faces the death penalty for advancing the cause of moderation. Unless his case gets significant support from abroad he may well die."
I reproduce this letter with permission from Ami Isseroff, who added a personal note via e-mail:
=> This widespread indifference (with just a few honorable exceptions) is indeed shocking and alarming. Choudhury's case is one that should concern all of us. As I said in a recent post, Freedom of the press under attack - Bangladeshi journalist Salah Choudhury faces the death penalty:
The case of the outspoken Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, now on trial facing a trumped-up charge of treason with a possible death penalty, is another important challenge of this sort. [....] He has faced years of persecution, including physical attacks and death threats as well as criminal prosecution, for his 'crimes' of criticizing Islamist radicalism and advocating reconciliation with Christians, Jews, and Israel. [....]
Choudhury was awarded the PEN-USA Freedom to Write Award in 2005, and his cause has been taken up by Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN. Their statement of October 10 [here] urges that everyone committed to freedom of expression should:
Send appeals to authorities:However, this case is still not getting nearly the attention that it deserves. It seems to me that Choudhury's cause is one that all people who support the principles of political and intellectual freedom and who would like to defend possibilities for democracy, political sanity, and constructive international dialogue should be especially interested in taking up. And the reasons go beyond the obvious threat to freedom of the press and free expression that this case represents, though these should be sufficient. Journalists in the Muslim world who are willing to stick their necks out to take positions like Choudhury's are not entirely non-existent, but they're not very numerous either, and they take especially great risks when they do this. If they're going to get their necks cut off for it, then all of us will be losers. They deserve strong and principled support. [.....]
Therefore, along with International PEN and others, I strongly urge people to spread the word about this case and to write to the Bangladeshi government expressing their concern. [....]
For further information and some relevant addresses, see HERE.
Yours for freedom of expression and democratic solidarity,
P.S. During an earlier stage of Choudhury's ordeal, in 2003, the New York Times published a strong editorial supporting him ("The Risks of Journalism in Bangladesh"). In 2006, for some reason, the NYTimes seems to have fallen silent about this matter, but what they said in 2003 is still very much on target.
Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000529.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.
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