Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Bangladeshi authorities to immediately free Shafiqul Kajol, a journalist who was arrested after being found blindfolded and bound hand and foot at the Indian border, and to investigate how he came to be abducted for 53 days.
“The first thing he told me was that he was alive and that he was glad to be able to tell me so himself,” Monorom Polok told RSF, describing the phone call he received from his father, at 2:40 a.m. yesterday.
Shafiqul Islam Kajol called his son from the Bangladeshi border post at Benapole, near the western city of Jashore, where border officials arrested him after spotting him, bound and blindfolded, in the no-man’s land between Bangladesh and India, at midday on 2 May.
As he was not carrying a passport, they arrested him for entering Bangladesh illegally and took him to Jashore, where a district court ordered him held under section 54 of the criminal procedure code, which allows detention where “a reasonable suspicion exists.” He is not due to reappear in court until 19 May.
“While it is an immense relief that Shafiqul Kajol has been found safe and sound, his arrest is extremely shocking,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “We call on the Bangladeshi prosecutor’s office to order this journalist’s immediate release and to appoint a serious team of investigators to establish how he came to be abducted all this time, which is very mysterious.”
Polok told RSF that he was able to see his father yesterday, but the meeting was short and his father was not able to talk about this abduction in any detail. He was handcuffed and was “really scared,” Polok said.
A Dhaka-based photojournalist and editor with the Dainik Pakkhakal daily newspaper, Kajol disappeared after leaving his office on the evening of 10 March. An investigation was ordered after his family reported him missing the next day.
The day before he disappeared, ruling party MP Saifuzzaman Shikhor brought a complaint against him, accusing him of publishing “false information” about the alleged involvement of well-known figures in a female escort service at a luxury Dhaka hotel. Two other journalists, Matiur Rahman Chowdhury, the editor of the Manabzamin daily newspaper, and one of Chowdhury’s reporters, are also accused in the same case.
Bangladesh is ranked 151st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index, one place lower than in 2019.