I am a progressive bleeding heart type, and my progressive heart is bleeding and I am ashamed. None of the great liberal institutions, or even the not-so liberal United States State Department, are taking up the cause of Salahuddin Shoaib Choudhury.
When someone speaks out for what every decent person believes, he deserves the support of every decent person. When his life is threatened for his stands, the world should stand with him. Sadly it seems that is not the case. Since I last wrote about the ordeal of Bangladesh journalist Salahuddin Shoaib Choudhury, there have been no dramatic developments. Choudhury spoke out for moderation and dialogue with Israel, and warned about Islamist extremism. This earned him about 18 months in jail, an indictment for sedition, and violence perpetrated against himself, his newspaper staff and his offices.
Some human rights groups took up his cause, a few journals and a few congresspeople have tried to help him. However, the United States State Department, so anxious to promote Muslim democracy, has been largely silent. The great journals of the world that are usually so concerned about rights of journalists and freedom of the press are largely silent. There have been no outraged editorials in the Guardian, The Independent, the Washington Post, the Nation. The New York Times ran a single op-ed on his case in 2003. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been silent. Their silence is deafening. HRW posted an item about beating of Bangladesh journalists, but they have resolutely ingored Salah's case.
Concerned about his plight, I wrote to the Washington Post. Jeff Weintraub took up the story
and tells it better than I can. Here's what I wrote to the Post:
I would like to call your attention to the plight of Bangladesh journalist Salahuddin Shoaib Choudhury, who is on trial for "sedition" in Bangladesh. As noted by a Washington Post reader [here], Choudhury's "crime" was that he wanted Bangladesh to open diplomatic relations with Israel and he spoke out against Islamist extremists. These are policies of the US government. Sedition carries the death penalty in Bangladesh. The offices of his journal have been ransacked and he and members of his staff have been beaten.
This man faces the death penalty for advancing the cause of moderation. Unless his case gets significant support from abroad he may well die. Meanwhile, he has suffered a three-year Kafkaesque nightmare of judicial harassment. Yet most major US newspapers have not written about his plight. For the most part he has been ignored by the US State Department, by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, though RSF and PEN have tried to help him.
I call on the Washington Post to bring this case to the attention of the American public.
Please do write to mainstream newspaper editors to HRW, Amnesty, your local officials, and the Bangladesh government representatives in your country. Some of the addresses we gave previously for Bangladesh officials do not work. Their government is in flux, and that can only make the situation worse.
Here are addresses that should be functional:
Mr. Md. Lutfozzaman Babar
State Minister for Home Affairs
Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh
Mr. Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury
Ambassador of Bangladesh in Washington
Email : email@example.com
Fax: 202-244-7830, 202-244-2771
Bangladesh Consulate in New York
Human Rights Watch:
1630 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Suite 500
Washington, DC 20009 USA
Tel:1-(202) 612-4321, Fax:1-(202) 612-4333
Other HRW contact information (not updated it seems):
Amnesty International Contact Information:
Please be civil in all communications, and please represent Salah's case for what it is - a human rights and civil rights case, regardless of political overtones. No journalist should be jailed for publishing his opinion, and nobody should be tried for "sedition" for expressing their ideas. Please ask rights groups and newspapers to stand up for what they are supposed to believe in.
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