Washington, DC, October 12, 2021 – All European Awami League should immediately withdraw their complaint to the Swedish police against the Bangladeshi journalist Tasneem Khalil, and the Bangladeshi authorities must stop harassing Khalil and his family, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On October 7, members of the All European Awami League, a Europe-focused branch of Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League party, lodged a complaint with the Globen Police in Sweden’s Stockholm County against Khalil, editor-in-chief of the Sweden-based news website. Netra Newsand claimed that the journalist had engaged in “a consistent effort to stem a wave of disinformation and slander against the Bangladeshi government” by Netra News, according to News reports and Khalil, who spoke to CPJ in a telephone interview.
The complaint also claims that Khalil, who lives in Sweden, has “spread rumors and rumors to confuse the public and often cast as individuals against the prime minister and her family members”, according to these reports.
Khalil told CPJ that the police have not contacted him and he has not seen the complaint himself; CPJ could not review a copy of the complaint. The Swedish police can decide whether an investigation of the complaint should continue, Khalil said.
“Bangladeshi authorities and political leaders must accept critical coverage of journalists such as Tasneem Khalil, and stop trying to mumble their voices through incessant harassment,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s program coordinator in Asia. “The entire European Awami League should withdraw its complaint against Khalil, and the Bangladeshi authorities must stop harassing Khalil and his family and allow journalists to do their job without interference.”
The CPJ emailed the All European Awami League and the office of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who also serves as president of the Awami League, for comment, but received no response.
When CPJ called the Swedish national police, an officer refused to comment and requested that CPJ send questions via e-mail. When CPJ emailed the national police for comment, an officer referred questions to Stockholm County Police. CPJ emailed that office for comment but received no immediate response.
Separately, authorities in Bangladesh have repeatedly harassed Khalil’s mother, the journalist said.
On April 9, 2020, members of the Directorate of Forces Intelligence, the intelligence department of Bangladesh’s armed forces, visited the home of Khalil’s mother, Nazneen Khalil, asked her about her privacy and asked her to speak to Khalil about his journalistic work which they claimed “worsens the image of the country” “, according to news reports and a Facebook posts of Khalil at that time.
On October 27, 2020, members of the police department of the city of Sylhet in northeastern Bangladesh, where Nazneen Khalil lives, asked her where Khalil and his siblings, who are not journalists, are, according to Khalil and his Facebook posts Right then.
CPJ called and sent an e-mail to the Directorate-General for Forces Intelligence, but received error messages. Mofiz Uddin Ahmed, Deputy Inspector General of the Sylhet Police, did not respond to CPJ’s email request for comment.
On September 12, the Dhaka Cyber Tribunal accepted allegations of digital security against Khalil based on a police report alleging that he made derogatory remarks about government officials on his Facebook page and “incited” Kabir Kishore, a Bangladeshi cartoonist, to “make rumors against the state goes viral on social media, ”as the CPJ documented at the time.
On October 6, police in Dhaka arrested Nusrat Shahrin Raka, sister of exiled journalist Kanak Sarwar, in retaliation for his critical coverage of the Bangladeshi government and ruling Awami League, as documented by the CPJ. Yesterday, the Supreme Court in Dhaka denied Raka’s bail application, according to Sarwar, who spoke to CPJ by telephone.