Bangladesh Police Arrest, Hold Sister of Journalist Living in US

BenarNews staff
Bangladesh Police Arrest, Hold Sister of Journalist Living in US Journalist Kanak Sarwar maintains this YouTube page to report on the Bangladesh government, Oct. 8, 2021.
YouTube screenshot

A Bangladeshi journalist living in the United States and media watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists have urged officials in Dhaka to release his sister who he claims was arrested in retaliation for his reporting on the government.

Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) police raided the suburban Dhaka home of Nusrat Shahrin Raka early Tuesday, according to her brother, journalist Kanak Sarwar.

“I am sure they have arrested my sister to scare me. You will see, even in RAB’s statement they mention she is my sister,” Sarwar told BenarNews on Friday.

“There could not be any other reason to arrest her but to teach me a lesson.”

Sarwar said some of his recent reports might have been the catalyst for Raka’s arrest.

“I guess her arrest is a reaction to my programs during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s recent visit to the U.S. and U.N. I ran a few programs where we questioned her personal visit to Finland, questioned bringing a large team to the U.N.,” he said.

Sarwar said Raka may not have seen any of his programs, as she was not active on social media.

In a press release, RAB claimed Raka was involved in “destroying peace and order in the country by spreading false, defamatory and provocative information about the government and important personalities of the state on social media.”

It added that police had accused her of involvement with an unnamed group engaged in “conspiratorial propaganda activities” with Sarwar.

Police filed a criminal complaint linked to violation of the Digital Security Act and one linked to alleged drug possession – authorities confiscated a passport, mobile phone and methamphetamine.

The journalist said Raka and her sons were taken to police headquarters in Dhaka where she remains in custody after a magistrate ordered she be held for questioning. Her sons have been released.

“She is still in police remand which will end on Sunday. A bail petition will be submitted, but it will depend on the government whether she will be granted bail,” Sarwar said.

“When they arrested my sister, RAB also took her 17-, 14- and 7-year-old sons to their office and after more than 30 hours those boys were released to their lawyer,” Sarwar said, adding the youngest suffered from trauma.


Nusrat Shahrin Raka.jpg
Nusrat Shahrin Raka is seen in this undated photo. [Courtesy Kanak Sarwar]

‘Mainstream media is almost silent’

Sarwar had reported for national dailies in Bangladesh before ending up at Ekushey TV where he worked until 2015.

In January of that year, the station ran a speech from London by Tarique Rahman, exiled son of opposition leader Khaleda Zia. The speech was to mark the anniversary of the 2014 general election that Khaleda’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party termed “Democracy Killing Day.”

Sarwar was arrested, made bail and lost his job a couple of months later.

He arrived in the United States in April 2016 and requested asylum after first stopping in Malaysia.

Sarwar, who lives in New York, runs a YouTube channel, Kanak Sarwar News.

“I do my journalism using the YouTube platform now. My areas of work are mainly restoration of democracy, freedom of expression, human rights and corruption in Bangladesh,” he said.

“In Bangladesh, mainstream media is almost silent, so we have to find alternative platforms to inform people about the facts and the truth. So I present this content through my YouTube platform.”

CPJ joined Sarwar in calling for his sister’s release from custody.

 “Punishing exiled journalist Kanak Sarwar by arresting his sister, Nusrat Shahrin Raka, is a crude and barbaric form of retaliation that should shame the government of Bangladesh,” Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, said in a statement on its website.

“Authorities must immediately release Raka, cease targeting critical journalists or their family members, and allow the media to operate without interference.”


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Oct 08, 2021 09:59 PM

I want to release Sister Nusrat, because one person is being arrested without guilt, those who are being arrested should be punished,

Oct 08, 2021 11:01 PM

If the country continues like this, no one will be found to speak for the truth. We want good governance to return to the country. Let everyone have the freedom to express their democratic views.

Forhad Khan.
Oct 09, 2021 06:54 AM

It's a shame for a nation.

Anti Awami Indian Forum
Oct 10, 2021 10:47 PM

It is a lowly act but not unexpected by the Indian backed Awami entity. Awami League supporters and dissidents need to attacked to level the game.