Bangladeshi reporter detained, blamed in operation against separatists
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the release of a national daily’s correspondent in a remote part of southeastern Bangladesh because of the irregularities surrounding his arrest by soldiers and subsequent detention, and the failure to produce any evidence of the grounds given for holding him – his alleged links with an armed separatist group.
Longa Khumi, the Bengali-language daily Manab Zamin’s local correspondent, has been held incommunicado ever since his arrest in a remote rural area in the southeastern district of Bandarban on 19 May by members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite army unit, who handed him over to the police in the locality of Ruma on the evening of the same day.
Various allegations have been made against Khumi, including serving as an informant for the Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF), an armed separatist group active in the area. The police say he is being held on the basis of “confidential documents” obtained by the army in the course of a “special operation” against the KNF. Khumi has so far been unable to speak to a lawyer or anyone else.
“Arrest by soldiers, arbitrary detention, non-existent evidence... everything in this case bears the hallmarks of illegality. The claims made by the police contribute no legitimacy to the arrest of Longa Khumi, who – according to our information – is clearly the collateral victim of an increase in tension in the region. In the absence of credible evidence to support the charges, we demand his immediate and unconditional release.
RSF has learned that, according to several of his colleagues, Khumi was just covering the medium-intensity conflict between the KNF and the Bangladeshi army. Everything indicates that he was scapegoated after two soldiers were killed by an explosion in Ruma two days before his arrest.
According to RSF’s barometer of press freedom violations, six other journalists are currently detained arbitrarily in Bangladesh.