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HomeOpinionU.K.-based journalist Shafiur Rahman decries Bangladesh authorities’ ‘harassment by proxy’

U.K.-based journalist Shafiur Rahman decries Bangladesh authorities’ ‘harassment by proxy’

Originally published on CPJ

Police and National Security Intelligence officers detained 32 Rohingyas, a stateless ethnic minority, for around 16 hours in Bangladesh’s southeast Cox’s Bazar region on May 17, 2024, on allegations of holding an unauthorized meeting of the Asia-Pacific Network of Refugees (APNOR), a region-wide network of civil society organizations and advocates.

Officers questioned nearly all of those detained about their connections to Shafiur Rahman, a British citizen of Bangladeshi origin who works as a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker and reports on how Bangladesh government policies have negatively impacted the Rohingya population, according to Rahman and two of those detained, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisal. Several of those detained from the APNOR meeting were also shown Rahman’s photo and asked if they knew him.

Authorities also ordered participants to remove the passwords from their mobile phones and laptops, which remained in police custody as of June 25, according to the sources who spoke to CPJ.

Bangladesh hosts over one million Rohingya refugees in camps that human rights organizations say are characterized by poor conditions.

Rahman told CPJ that he was not associated with APNOR. Rahman added that the latest actions posed a threat to his safety and ability to work in Bangladesh’s Rohingya camps, where journalists have reported receiving threats from the country’s authorities as well as from those living inside the camps.

“These actions amount to harassment by proxy, as the authorities are using their influence to silence and intimidate me indirectly as well as intimidating [Rohingya] youth who have nothing to do with me,” the journalist said.

Rohingya journalists have told CPJ and other press freedom organizations that Bangladesh authorities have subjected them to surveillance, harassment, and threats in retaliation for their work.

Following the publication of this article, Mohammad Ali Arafat, Bangladesh’s state minister for information and broadcasting, told CPJ that the detention of the 32 Rohingyas was within the legal authority of the police, who “intervened in this unauthorized meeting outside the refugee camp to prevent any deterioration of the law and order situation.”

Arafat did not respond to CPJ’s follow-up questions about the allegations that nearly all of those detained were questioned about Rahman.

Rashed Hasan, deputy director and public relations officer of National Security Intelligence, did not respond to CPJ’s messages requesting comment.

Editor’s note: The second paragraph was updated to clarify Rahman’s citizenship. The article was updated to include Arafat’s response.

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