Bangladesh authorities should spare no effort to locate missing journalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol, and should not allow a criminal defamation case to proceed against him, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Yesterday, the journalist’s family filed a report with the Chawkbazar Police Station in Dhaka, the capital, stating that Kajol, a photographer and editor of the biweekly Pakkhakal magazine, had not been since March 10, according to news reports.
Kajol disappeared one day after he and 31 others were named in a criminal defamation complaint filed by Saifuzzaman Shikhor, a member of parliament from the ruling Awami League, alleging that they had published false news, according to news reports.
The complaint was filed under the Digital Security Act, a piece of legislation that CPJ previously expressed concern could “create extensive legal dangers for journalists carrying out their professional activities.”
“The disappearance of journalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol is especially concerning after he was named in a dubious defamation complaint filed by a member of parliament under the draconian Digital Security Act,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Police need to find Kajol quickly and return him to his family, and ensure that a criminal defamation case does not proceed against him or any other journalist.”
On March 11, The Editors’ Council, a local organization of professional editors, demanded the withdrawal of the defamation complaint, pointing out that Shikhor was not named in the story in question, according to reports.
CPJ sent a text message to the officer-in-charge at the Chawkbazar Police Station seeking comment, but did not immediately receive a reply.
CPJ also emailed Shikhor and the officer-in-charge at the Sher-e-Bangla Nagar Police Station, where the defamation suit was lodged, but did not immediately receive any replies.
CPJ has previously reported on journalist disappearances in Bangladesh, and the atmosphere of fear those disappearances create for members of the press.