Daily Amar Desh shut, Mahmudur arrested

Jun 1, 2010

Police entered the Amardesh office to arrest Mahmudur Rahman

Declaration cancelled over ‘publisher row'; acting editor Mahmudur arrested

The Daily Star (June 2) reports:

The government yesterday cancelled the declaration of the Bangla daily Amar Desh citing that it has no authorised publisher.

Acting editor of the daily Mahmudur Rahman was arrested at its office in the wee hours today.

Deputy Commissioner of Dhaka Mohibul Haque told The Daily Star, “Declaration of the newspaper has been cancelled as it has no publisher.”

The DC has cancelled the declaration according to article-5 and -7 of part-III of the Printing Presses and Publications (Declaration and Registration) Act, 1973.

The DC said the previous publisher Md Hasmat Ali, in writing, notified the DC office in March that he is no longer willing to be the publisher of the newspaper. However, as of yesterday, Amar Desh was published with Md Hasmat Ali’s name as the publisher of the newspaper in the printer’s line.

After cancellation of the declaration, over 200 policemen went to the Amar Desh office at Karwan Bazar. The journalists of the newspaper staged a sit-in at the entry points of the office to prevent policemen from entering.

The police also went to the press of Amar Desh at Tejgaon to stop publication of its today’s issue but journalists of the daily said they were able to print its first edition.

Meanwhile, hearing rumours that police are going to arrest Mahmudur Rahman, around 100 BNP and Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal leaders including Nazrul Islam Khan, Abdus Salam, Khairul Kabir Khokan and Sultan Salauddin Tuku gathered at the Amar Desh office to stop the arrest. They chanted anti-government slogans and tried to get to the 1oth-floor Amar Desh office. Police, however, stopped their attempt.

Arrested Mahmudur Rahman was brought down from the building around 4:00am today and the BNP and Chhatra Dal leaders chanted anti-government slogans as he was put into an unmarked police vehicle.

On Hasmat Ali not willing to be the Amar Desh publisher anymore, the Dhaka DC said, “The previous publisher submitted his application with an affidavit.” The DC office, in March, informed Hasmat Ali through a letter that the office has accepted his affidavit. The DC, however, could not say the exact date the affidavit was submitted and accepted.

Meanwhile, Mahmudur Rahman, the acting editor of Amar Desh, in a letter to the DC office in March said he wanted to be the publisher of the newspaper.

After getting the application, the DC office asked the Dhaka Special Branch (DSB) of police to give a report on Mahmudur Rahman whether he is eligible to be the publisher of the newspaper, said Mohibul.

“We have received a negative report from the Special Branch today [yesterday], the DC said.

When asked, on what grounds the DSB gave a negative report, the DC said they mentioned several reasons including that there are 31 cases filed against Mahmudur Rahman.

“We had been waiting for the report of the Dhaka Special Branch since Mahmudur Rahman filed an application as an aspirant publisher of Amar Desh. But when we received the negative report from the Special Branch today [yesterday]. We cancelled the declaration of the paper as it has no publisher,” said the DC.

Mahmudur Rahman is the former energy adviser of the BNP-Jamaat-led alliance government and is known as a close ally of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia.

Around 7:00pm last night, Hasmat Ali, elder brother of Mosaddak Ali Falu who is an adviser to BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, filed a case with Tejgaon Industrial Area Police Station against Mahmudur Rahman for using his name as the publisher of the newspaper.

In the case statement, Hasmat Ali said he sold all the shares of Amar Desh Publications Ltd to Mahmudur Rahman last year and the shares were handed over to Mahmudur Rahman.

He said he resigned from the post of publishers on October 11 last year and the resignation form was submitted to the Deputy Commissioner of Dhaka district.

He said Mahmudur Rahman continued publishing his name as Amar Desh’s publisher.

He said during this time at least 30 cases were filed against the daily and he was implicated as the accused in all the cases. He said this tarnished his social image and incurred financial loss.

The Daily Star twice called Hasmat on his mobile phone, which a woman picked up. She said Hasmat left home leaving his phone at home. She then hung up.

Tejgaon Industrial Police Station Officer-in-Charge Omar Faruq told The Daily Star that the case was filed under sections-419, -420 and -500 of CrPC in connection with cheating Hasmat Ali and violating section-7 of Printing Presses and Publications (Declaration and Registration) Act, 1973.

Article-5 of the act is regarding publication of newspapers. It says, “No newspaper shall be printed or published except in conformity with the provisions of this part and unless there subsists an authenticated declaration in respect thereof.”

Press conference

MAHMUDUR’S PRESS CONFERENCE

Acting editor of the daily Amar Desh Mahmudur Rahman yesterday afternoon held a press conference at the newspaper office where he claimed that members of National Security Intelligence (NSI) kidnapped the publisher of the newspaper Hasmat Ali from his house.

The former energy adviser to BNP-Jamaat government termed the incident a government conspiracy to shutdown the newspaper that focuses on corruption of the ministers as well as human rights violation of the government.

He said NSI kidnapped its publisher around 9:00am yesterday and released him at 2:00pm after taking his signatures in two papers, addressed to the deputy commissioner of Dhaka and officer-in-charge of Tejgaon Police Station.

“The paper addressing to the DC reads I, Md Hasmat Ali, is no longer the publisher of the Amar Desh newspaper. The newspaper is being published using my name. I am requesting to take legal action against the move,” Mahmudur Rahman quoted Hasmat as saying.

He claimed that the Dhaka DC was not giving the nod to his application to become the publisher of the newspaper.

“The DC informed me that he can’t give permission following an objection by higher authority of the government,” Mahmudur said.

bdnews24.com, DHAKA reports:
The government on Tuesday night closed opposition BNP-leaning daily Amar Desh newspaper as police entered its office to arrest acting editor Mahmudur Rahman hours after its publisher Hashmat Ali sued him for fraud.
A journalist of the newspaper told bdnews24.com that the police shut down the press at Love Road in Tejgaon at 11:30pm.
The drama unfolding since morning-when Hashmat’s family said he had been whisked away by intelligence to an undisclosed place-took a new twist with the Dhaka’s deputy commissioner cancelling the paper’s declaration.
The deputy commissioner signed an order to this effect at 10pm, an official of his office said, preferring anonymity.
The Amar Desh building in Karwan Bazar as well as its press in Tejgaon were surrounded by a large number of law enforcers amid swirling rumours that the paper’s declaration had been cancelled.
The government last month knocked private TV station Channel 1 off the air citing irregularities.
Tejgaon Industrial Area police chief Omar Faruk earlier told the news agency that a complaint had been lodged against Mahmudur, who earlier in the day alleged that the government was planning to shut down the newspaper.
The former energy adviser to ex-prime minister Khaleda Zia rushed a news conference at the pro-BNP daily’s office and said he had talked with Hashmat after he had returned from his detention at National Security Intelligence office, who had told him that he was ‘frightened’.
Mahmud said the NSI men took Hasmat and forced him to sign two papers. “He was made to sit at their office until 2pm while the investigators pressed him to sign two papers.”
“One of the papers was addressed to Dhaka’s deputy commissioner and the other to Tejgaon police chief. The papers state that Hashmat Ali is not the publisher of Amar Desh. Legal steps can be taken as his name is being printed as the publisher.”
“He was forced to sit until he signed the papers. Later Hashmat Ali signed the papers and was released after a five-hour detention,” said Mahmud.
A former chairman of the Board of Investment, Mahmud said the press meet was organised to protest the current government’s ‘fascist’ behaviour and conspiracy against the news media.
Hashmat’s family had earlier told bdnews24.com that he had been detained for six hours after some intelligence officials whisked him away around 9am.
He returned to his Shahjahanpur residence around 3pm but went out, they said.
“He went out after a while,” a member of his family said, without elaborating on the matter.
Mahmud had claimed at around 1pm that National Security Intelligence took Hashmat and were forcibly trying to file a case against him.
Neither NSI officials nor the police admitted the detention.
NSI director Shafiqullah told bdnews24.com earlier that they had not detained anybody by that name.
“He is probably sitting at home.”
“This is reminiscent of June 16, 1975 when all but four newspapers were banned,” Mahmud said of Ali’s detention. “Coincidentally, this is June again.”
“I have heard that he is being coerced into bringing charges against me,” he said. “Is this what they have learnt from the Moeen Uddins, the perpetrators of 1/11?”
“I guess they will try to file a case against me,” he said.
Mahmud took over the management of the newspaper in 2008. Later he sent a letter to the deputy commissioner for serving as editor of the newspaper. Since then he has been the acting editor of the newspaper.
He said, “[The government] has already closed down two television channels. With ‘Digital Bangladesh’ as their slogan they have shut down Facebook.
“Now they are conspiring to close down national dailies. As a part of this conspiracy, the Amar Desh publisher was picked up. Now they are conspiring to close down the daily and arrest me.”
He also urged all journalists and media professionals, irrespective of their political inclinations, to “stand against this conspiracy”.
Mahmud, also the chairman of Amar Desh Publications Limited, said “This daily speaks for a free and sovereign state. As a result, many of its news are not going in favour of the government and are displeasing them. So they are trying to shut it down.”

New Age (June 2) reports:

The publication of Bengali daily Amar Desh was closed as the government cancelled the declaration of the newspaper Tuesday night.
   The cancellation of the declaration came after a day-long drama in which Amar Desh publisher Hasmat Ali was allegedly detained by the National Security Intelligence and freed after six hours before he sued its acting editor Mahmudur Rahman on charges of cheat, impersonation and defamation.
   The police sealed off the press of Amar Desh in Tejgaon industrial area about 11:00pm, said a journalist of the newspaper.
   The police, however, allowed the distribution of two other newspapers printed from the press, but no copies of Amar Desh, the journalist said adding that about 4,000 copies of the newspaper had already been printed by the time.
   Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists and Dhaka Union of Journalists called a protest rally at the National Press Club and procession at 11:00am today in protest against the government’s action against Amar Desh.
   The police surrounded Amar Desh office at Karwan Bazar about 10:30pm to arrest Mahmudur.
   Till submission of this report at 1:30am the police could not enter the office. A large contingent of police kept the building, which houses the newspaper office, cordoned. A huge number of police in plainclothes were also seen on the spot.
   Amar Desh city editor Zahed Chowdhury said that they were forced by the police to close the publication, although they had not received the order of the cancellation of its declaration till 1:30am.
   An official of the Dhaka deputy commissioner’s office asked the newspaper over telephone to close the publication saying that its declaration had been cancelled, he said.
   According to an official at the deputy commissioner’s office, the deputy commissioner signed the order of cancellation of the declaration about 10:00pm.
   Earlier, Hashmat, brother of former BNP lawmaker and BNP chairperson’s adviser Mosaddak Ali, who was allegedly picked up by the intelligence men from his house at Shahjhanpur about 9:00am, went back home about 3:00pm and again left home alone without telling anyone about his destination, the family said.
   He lodged the case with the Tejgaon industrial Area police about 7:20pm, the police officer-in-charge, Omar Faruq, said.
   ‘Hashmat came to the police station alone and filed the case under Section 419, 420 and 500 of the Penal Code,’ Omar said.
   The complaint lodged by Hashmat said Mahmud had cheated him through impersonation by printing his name as publisher of the newspaper although Hashmat resigned on December 4, 2008, Omar said.
   The complaint also said Mahmud had caused defamation to Hashmat as he had been sued on a number of charges only for his name being printed as the publisher of the newspaper, Omar said.
   Earlier at 5:00pm, Mahmudur Rahman at a briefing in the Amar Desh office alleged the government had been making preparations for suing and arresting him and closing down the paper as it was vocal against the present government’s misdeeds.
   A high official in the information ministry at night told New Age the information ministry had no information on this matter.
   Mahmudur Rahman said the intelligence people had forced Hashmat Ali to sign two documents which were addressed to the Dhaka deputy commissioner and the Tejgaon Industrial Area police officer-in-charge, urging them to take legal action against the people who were printing his name as publisher of the newspaper although he had no longer been involved with it.
   National Security Intelligence director Shafiqullah, however, told news agency bdnews24.com the intelligence agency did not pick up Hashmat.
   Mahmudur said the action of the government indicated that it was out to close down the newspaper which had reported on the government corruption and misdeeds.
   ‘Amar Desh will be closed if the newsmen and ethical section of society does not resist the government move,’ he said.
   Mahmudur said all such actions were the result of the planning of civil and military intelligence agencies as was done during the rule of the military-controlled interim administration.
   He said a National Security Intelligence director, Shafiqullah, was behind Tuesday’s event. ‘Last night, I heard there was a meeting at the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence where they resolved to close down my newspaper in 10 days and arrest me. After today’s incident, I have reasons to believe that it will be done,’ Mahmudur said.
   Mahmud said picking up a citizen by an intelligence agency without any warrant and forcing him to sign documents prepared by the agency reminded him of the rule of the military-controlled government of Moeen Uddin and Fakhruddin Ahmed.
   ‘All you know that I had taken charge of Amar Desh during the toughest time it faced two years ago and all the authorities concerned were informed of it and the Department of Films and Publications issued a “no-objection certificate” on November 3, 2009. We also wrote letters to the deputy commissioner and other officials concerned, requesting them to give us permission to change the names of the printer and the publisher, but there was no response,’ he said.
   The Department of Films and Publications deputy director (registration), Masuda Khatun, who issued the no-objection certificate, on Tuesday told New Age, ‘I cannot say what has happened of the issue without examining the file.’
   ‘Usually,’ she said, ‘we issue an NOC when we find that all the criteria for the changing of the publisher’s name are fulfilled.’
   ‘Some officials at the deputy commissioner’s office told us response to our request was being delayed at the instruction of the people high up in the government and all files regarding our newspaper have been taken to the Prime Minister’s Office,’ he said.
   ‘All of a sudden on March 15, the officer-in-charge of the publications department at the deputy commissioner’s office issued a show-cause notice, asking why Hashmat Ali’s name was being printed as publisher on the newspaper’s printer’s line. We replied that the name had not been changed as the deputy commissioner’s office was yet to approve the change in printer’s name, and his name was being printed as the file was pending with them, and we asked them to approve our petition immediately,’ Mahmudur said.
   ‘The government is doing all this to close down Amar Desh. And it will do so if the newsmen do not get united and resist the move… Incidentally, this action on the first day of June reminds me of June 16, 1975 when all but four newspapers were closed down by the Awami League government,’ he said.
   Mahmudur said he had a telephone conversation with Hashmat after his return, and he was told that the intelligence people had intimidated Hashmat and forced him to sign the documents, and warned him not to tell anybody and not to leave home as he might be required in the future.
   ‘I asked him why he had signed the documents, and he said he was frightened and did whatever they said. Hashmat also said that the documents were addressed to Dhaka’s deputy commissioner and Tejgaon Industrial Area police officer-in-charge, asking them to take legal action against the people who were printing his name as publisher,’ Mahmudur said.
   ‘The government has already closed down two television channels and suspended Facebook in spite of its slogan of a digital Bangladesh. Now it has extended its claws to Amar Desh… This is just the beginning. Who knows, this trend might cause closure of the house you are work for,’ he told the newsmen.
   ‘By the grace of Allah, I am not afraid and am ready to face anything. But if things are allowed to proceed this way the consequences for the nation and democracy will be catastrophic,’ he told reporters.

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