Bangladesh ‘denying’ visas to foreign journalists?

Bangladesh authorities are making it increasingly difficult for foreign journalists to enter Bangladesh during the election period to cover the 11th parliamentary election slated to be held on Dec 30.

In the past, international journalists who work for well-known media easily received visas which could then be renewed based on the length of their projects but during the election period this year Bangladesh Election Commission and concerned authorities rejected visa’s for journalists who expressed their desire to cover the election.

A Thailand based journalist Kanlayawee Waewklayhong alleged that she was denied to approve visa to visit Bangladesh.

Kanlayawee Waewklayhong alleged that officials of Embassy of Bangladesh rejected her visa application saying that she can visit Bangladesh after January 14 as Embassy of Bangladesh stopped approving journalist’s visas as per instruction of high ups.

She said: “I am still feeling a bit down that my dream to visit few of my friends has changed as Bangladesh’s authorities denied approving visa for me saying that I only can visit Bangladesh after January 14.”

She declined to disclose further fearing that if she discloses her details then she will never get visa to visit Bangladesh. She visited Bangladesh several times this year.

Sukur Shablu Ali, a Bangladeshi expatriates in United Kingdom, said: “I tried to apply for visa for one of my client, who is a journalist and very eager to cover Bangladesh’s national election, on 14 December 2018 but Assistant High Commission of Bangladesh (Manchester) said it will be ready by 14 January 2019.”

Election Commission authorities in Bangladesh however explained that foreign journalists who wished to receive visas to cover election news must submit application with proper documents.

Election Commission secretary Helaluddin Ahmed claimed that all foreign journalists who applied for visas to cover election, have got their visas.

However, Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukdar said that EC has barring foreign journalists to enter in Bangladesh to cover the election as per instruction of government.

Awami League election steering committee co-chairman and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s political advisor HT Imam alleged that sometimes observes use fake journalists identity to get Election Commission to get pass to cover election.

“Sometimes foreigner entered Bangladesh as journalist during election period to cover the election, but later claimed themselves that they are not journalist but observer. EC should be careful in the issue,” he said.

Abdul Malek, secretary of information ministry told that they 50 foreign journalists will cover 11th parliamentary election.

He denied the allegation of barring journalists to approve visas saying that “If we denied visas for journalists then how 50 foreign journalists get their visas to cover the election.”

However did not agree to disclose the names and identities of the foreign journalists.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs secretary Md. Shahidul Haque told that 200 foreign observers and 50 journalists will cover the election.

He said: “Foreign journalists, who applied through proper channel, have got their visas and we did not reject no journalist’s visas.”

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