A Khulna court yesterday granted bail to Hedait Hossain Molla, local correspondent of the Dhaka Tribune, in a case filed under digital security Act.
District Judge Moshiur Rahman Chowdhury passed the order in the afternoon after which Hedait walked out of Khulna jail around 6:45pm.
Speaking to The Daily Star, Masum Billah, one of Hedait's lawyers, said his client was given ad-interim bail which will be effective until January 14.
Members of different organisations including Khulna Press Club, Khulna Union of Journalists, Metropolitan Union of Journalists, and Khulna Reporters' Foundation were present at the jail gate to greet Hedait upon release.
Some five to six lawyers, including Masum and Tariq Mahmud, represented Hedait during the hearing yesterday.
Hedait was arrested on January 1, a day after the case was filed against two reporters, including him, with Batiaghata Police Station in the district.
The other accused is Rashidul Islam, staff reporter of the daily Manab Zamin, reports our Khulna correspondent.
Batiaghata Upazila Nirbahi Officer Debashish Chowdhury, also the assistant returning officer, filed the case against the two.
The case statement said the accused published false, fabricated and provocative information on the voting with the use of electronic devices, including laptops, which might confuse people and create a chaotic situation.
CPJ CONDEMNS ARREST
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Wednesday called on the Bangladeshi authorities to immediately release Hedait.
Quoting media reports, the CPJ said, Hedait and Rashidul both reported the initial election results of a certain constituency that indicated the number of votes cast was higher than the number of total voters.
An election officer later asserted that this had been a mistake, but the reporters had already published their stories.
The police report said that their articles were "false information that was made intentionally to make the election result seem questionable and controversial," according to Reuters.
CPJ's phone call to Batiaghata Police Station, where the case was filed, went unanswered on Wednesday.
In Washington, DC, CPJ Asia Programme Coordinator Steven Butler said, "Arresting a journalist for reporting on alleged election irregularities and raising legitimate questions is a disappointing way for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League party to respond to their re-election.
"The government should reaffirm its commitment to democratic values and refrain from abusing the Digital Security Act to attack press freedom."