Journalists in Trouble

Two journalists find themselves without liberty, in two very different situations.

First, via Mash at the Dr Strangelove Blog, we hear that prominent journalist Tasneem Khalil arrested by military police in Bangladesh. Khalil is only 26, and works for the Dhaka-based Daily Star newspaper. He also campaigns for Human Rights Watch, who have issued a statement regarding his detention.

There are rumours that this detention will be shortlived, and that he might be released by the weekend. Regardless, the Internet is already being used to co-ordinate a campaign for his release: There is a possibility of a protest outside the Bangladeshi embassy in London, and campaigners will be raising awareness within the Bangladeshi community in the UK, at the Brick Lane Mela this weekend. Pickled Politics has more information.

Meanwhile, BBC reporter Alan Johnston has been missing for 60 days. In his case, his captors are a local militia group in Gaza.

An online petitions has been created for Alan Johnston, with another planned for Tasneem Khalil. However, I wonder whether this is as important as simply spreading awareness on a word-of-mouth (or word-of-blog) basis throughout the relevant communities. In neither case are the captors (The Bangladeshi ‘caretaker government'; and the Jaish al-Islam group in Gaza) directly accountable to the populations they pretend to serve. But one hopes that a rising wave of discontent coming from within those populations will eventually persuade those who make the decisions, that releasing their prisoners is the best course of action. By contrast, disapproval from outside these ‘constituencies’ – say, from the BBC or the British Government – might not be as persuasive.

Good luck Alan and Tasneem.

Alan Johnston banner

Tasneem Khalil has now been released. Worryingly, his detention was apparently “not due to his journalistic work and had nothing to do with his functions at The Daily Star … In fact, it was because of the contents of his personal blog and some SMSs he had sent recently…” Hmmm.

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