DHAKA, Bangladesh – A court in Bangladesh has ordered three journalists of a pro-opposition newspaper held in detention on charges of publishing a false story that alleged Indian security forces had joined Bangladeshi troops in a crackdown before the recent controversial elections.
Information Minister Hasanul Huq Inu said Friday that the report by the Bengali-language Inqilab daily was baseless, and the newspaper used a doctored email and fax message to back it up.
Police on Friday arrested news editor Rabiullah Rabi, deputy chief reporter Rafiq Mohammad and diplomatic correspondent Ahmed Atique, after raiding their office on Thursday night.
Magistrate Atiqur Rahman ordered the reporters held in detention and set the next hearing for Monday. The reporters, who are being held for violating the Information Technology Act, are seeking their release on bail.
The government said it did not stop the publication of the newspaper, but sealed off the press temporarily. The daily continues its online edition.
The newspaper published a report Thursday saying that Indian security forces joined Bangladeshi officials during a crackdown on people suspected of launching attacks in the southwestern district of Satkhira ahead of the Jan. 5 election. Satkhira, which borders India, is a stronghold of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party.
Authorities said the report was based on rumors and part of propaganda against the government, as the issue of Bangladesh's relationship with India is sensitive.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina returned to power in a landslide victory Jan. 5, but the vote was marred by violence, a boycott by the main opposition party and low turnout. Political violence has convulsed the country in recent months as opposition activists staged attacks, strikes and transportation blockades to defy the government. Nearly 300 people have been killed since last February.
The newspaper has no major influence but is known as pro-opposition. The daily has earlier been accused of publishing fabricated reports, and has a history of backing Islamist hardline groups in Muslim-majority Bangladesh.