Leaders of journalist associations have described the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit's letter ordering a probe into the bank accounts of top journalist leaders as an 'intimidation tactic'.
The move was a "scare tactic" to create fears among journalists, said the journalist leaders 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 rally in front of the National Press Club on Sunday afternoon was also announced at the press conference.
The BFIU, an agency responsible for investigating suspicious transactions, sent a letter to all banks on 12 September, asking them to provide details of the bank accounts belonging to 11 journalists.
The name of Farida Yasmin, president of Jatiya Press Club, is on the list, followed by Elias Khan, its general secretary. The list 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 at the event by Mosiur Rahman Khan, Dhaka Reporters Unity (DRU) General Secretary and one of the journalists on the list.
He said, "It is unprecedented in the history of Bangladesh to enquire the bank accounts of the elected top leaders of the organisations established by the professional journalists of the country," he said, adding that specific allegations against any person or organisation can be investigated but such a move is intentional targeting the profession of journalism.
Demanding an explanation for the move, he said, "The publication of the letter by the BFIU has tarnished the image of the journalist leaders as well as the organisations and the people in the society."
However, the speakers at the event also said that in case of any unusual transaction or traces of money laundering or militant financing via the bank accounts of our leaders, it should be disclosed to the media.
At the press conference, Farida Yasmin said, "There should be some specific reasons for summoning a bank account. Bank accounts are sought in the light of specific allegations if there are any unusual transactions or suspicion of aiding militant financing. But there is no sign of any such allegations"
"I have discussed it with important people in the government, including the information minister, who have said they know nothing about it."