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Bangladesh court orders newspaper editor’s arrest

January 21, 2015

A court in Bangladesh issued an arrest warrant for the editor of the country’s top daily newspaper on Wednesday over a cartoon and article deemed offensive to Muslims.

Activists have accused the Bangladesh government of seeking to muzzle its critics, and the warrant came weeks after authorities forced off air a private television station that broadcast a speech by the son of the opposition leader.

Matiur Rahman, who edits the Bengali daily Prothom Alo, was accused of hurting religious sentiment in a case filed last October.

Public prosecutor Alam Khan Kamal told AFP the judge had issued the arrest warrant after Rahman failed to appear in court on three consecutive occasions.

Rahman did not immediately answer calls for comment.

Prothom Alo is Bangladesh’s most widely read newspaper with a circulation of around half a million and has a reputation for being politically neutral.

The charge relates to a cartoon published in 2007 that used the name Mohammed — a common first name in Bangladesh — and an article published in 2013 that prosecutors say misinterpreted a verse of the Quran.

It comes at a politically sensitive time for Bangladesh, where opposition protests have killed 29 people in recent weeks.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.