Skype scandal gag on media

War crimes tribunal asks media to refrain from running any news related to it

Staff Correspondent

British magazine The Economist published an online article based on, what it said, “hacked e-mails and telephone conversations” between Justice Nizamul Huq and Ahmed Ziauddin. The Daily Star is not running the article in view of yesterday’s directive of the International Crimes Tribunal-2.

International Crimes Tribunal-2 yesterday directed all Bangladeshi media to refrain from publishing or airing any piece or transcript related to the alleged conversations between Justice Nizamul Huq and Ahmed Ziauddin “for keeping the administration of justice unaffected”.

The tribunal in its order said, “Recording of a private conversation, if the persons don’t know about it, is an offence. Publishing of such recorded conversation is thus inevitably the outcome of that offence.”

The three-member Tribunal-2, led by Justice Obaidul Hassan with newly appointed Justice Mozibur Rahman Miah and Judge M Shahinur Islam, passed the order following a prosecution petition.

Justice Huq recently stepped down from the post of Tribunal-1 chairman after Bangla daily Amar Desh published his alleged Skype conversations with Ziauddin, a legal expert based in Brussels.

Meanwhile, the High Court yesterday issued a rule upon the government to explain within two weeks as to why it should not be directed to apprehend and prosecute acting editor Mahmudur Rahman of Bangla daily Amar Desh for publishing the alleged conversation of Justice Huq.

In response to a petition filed as public interest litigation, the High Court bench of Justice AHM Shamsuddin Choudhury Manik and Justice Farid Ahmed also directed the authorities concerned to stop the publishing of media reports which were based on the illegally received information. This order stays in effect until January 7, 2013.

The government yesterday made Justice ATM Fazle Kabir chairman of Tribunal-1, the post vacated by Justice Huq. Justice Kabir was the Tribunal-2 chief.

Tribunal-2 member judge Justice Obaidul Hassan was made chief of his court while High Court judge Justice Mozibur Rahman Miah joined Tribunal-2.

At Tribunal-2 yesterday, Prosecutor Rana Dasgupta told the court that Bangla daily Amar Desh had been publishing the alleged private conversation of Justice Huq regularly.

He said the daily had been continuously publishing the alleged conversation “intentionally with clear motive” to “derogate” the tribunal and to “create a wrong perception” among people about the dignity of the tribunals.

He sought legal action against the editor, publisher and the printer of Amar Desh and an injunction on the newspaper keeping it from publishing the alleged conversation.

The prosecution also sought similar directives against Bangla daily Sangram, the mouthpiece of Jamaat-e-Islami, which has several of its top leaders under trial at the two tribunals set up to try crimes against humanity committed during the Liberation War.

Tribunal-2 then asked defence counsels present if they had anything to say about the matter.

“We wouldn’t say anything about it,” replied Farid Uddin Khan, a defence counsel of Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah.

After a 30-minute break, the Tribunal-2 in its order said Amar Desh continued publishing such private communications and conversations which was quite derogatory for the tribunals.

“We consider it appropriate and indispensable for keeping the administration of justice unaffected,” said Justice Hassan.

The tribunal also directed the authorities concerned to send the copy of the order to the information ministry and Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission for necessary action.

The High Court bench yesterday also ordered the district magistrate to have an enquiry whether the press and publication laws had been violated by the newspaper that published the alleged conversation between Justice Huq and Ziauddin.

It asked for a report by January 7.

It also asked the authorities concerned to submit a report by that time on what steps they have taken against people involved in the publishing of the alleged conversation.

Secretaries to the ministries of home, law, information, post and telecommunications, the Supreme Court registrar, inspector general of police, deputy commissioner and superintendent of police of Dhaka, officer-in-charge of Tejgaon Police Station and Mahmudur Rahman of Amar Desh have been made respondents to the rule and order.

Azher Ullah Bhuiyan, a Supreme Court lawyer, filed the petition seeking its directives on the government. He also prayed to the court to direct the government to suspend the publication of Amar Desh.

During the hearing yesterday, petitioner’s lawyer Shafiuddin Ahmed told the bench that Mahmudur Rahman had committed grave criminal offence under sections 56 and 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act, 2006.

The highest sentence under these sections is 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of Tk 1 crore.

Mahmudur has also violated the constitutional right to privacy by publishing the conversation, which is also an offence, Shafiuddin Ahmed said.

Source: The Daily Star


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