Probe into bank accounts a scare tactic: B’desh journos

The BFIU, a finance monitoring agency of the Bangladesh Bank responsible for investigating suspicious transactions, has sent a letter to all banks on September 12 asking them to provide details of accounts belonging to 11 journalist leaders. the leaders call the move a “scare tactic”.

Farida Yasmin, President of the Jatiya Press Club, topped the list, followed by Elias Khan, also a leader of BNP, general secretary of Jatiya (National) Press Club.

Leaders of major journalist associations of Bangladesh have described the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit’s letter ordering a probe into their bank accounts as “targeted”.

They called the initiative a “scare tactic to create fear among the media” at a press conference held under a joint banner of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists, the Dhaka Union of Journalists, the Jatiya Press Club and the Dhaka Reporters Unity on Saturday.

A protest was also announced in front of the Jatiya Press Club on Sunday afternoon.

It also included Kader Gani Chowdhury, president of the BNP-backed faction of the Dhaka Union of Journalists, and its general secretary, Md Shahidul Islam.

A joint statement from all 11 members was read out by Mosiur Rahman Khan, one of the journalists on the list.

“There was no precise reason given for the probe into the bank accounts,” Farida Yasmin told IANS on Sunday morning.

“It is only once specific allegations regarding unusual transactions or financial support for militancy surface that an investigation into bank accounts should be launched. But there is no sign of any such allegations.

“I spoke to the information minister and other important members of the government and they say they do not know anything about this situation.

“The decision to probe the bank accounts of the leaders of the top organisations established by professional journalists across the country is unprecedented and has never happened before.

“Of course, an investigation can be launched over specific allegations against any person or organisation. But we believe this decision to initiate an across-the-board probe against the top elected leaders of journalist organisations is targeted,” she added.

Mosiur called for an explanation of the decision and noted that “the BFIU’s decision to release information about their letter to the media has tarnished the reputation of journalist organisations and leaders in the eyes of the public and society”.

However, he did also call for the public to be informed of any wrongdoing found by the investigation.

“If any evidence is found that our leadership was engaged in unusual transactions, or any form of money laundering or financial support to militants, it should be released to the media.”

“But, if no evidence is found, the public should be informed of that matter and it should be given the same degree of importance, as is appropriate,” the journalist added.

BFUJ President Molla Jalal said: “The letter was sent and then news of the bank account probe was reported in the media immediately afterward before that information was sent back to them. That means that the letter aims to discredit the individuals and organisations it targeted. This scare tactic is being used to create fear among journalists.

“We believe this is clearly targeted. We believe it is a threat to freedom of expression and independent journalism.”