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Bangladesh 28 June 2004

Newspaper editor killed in bomb attack in Khulna

The editor of a regional daily in south-western Khulna has been killed in a bomb attack, less than six months after the murder there of a BBC World Service local correspondent. A far-left armed group admitted responsibility.

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) and the Bangladesh Centre for Development, Journalism and Communications (BCDJC) joined in expressing their revulsion at the 27 June killing of Humayun Kabir Balu, 57, editor of Dainik Janmabhumi.

Manik Shaha, of the daily New Age and a BBC correspondent was murdered when a bomb was thrown at his head in Khulna on 15 January. At least 13 journalists have been killed in south and south-west Bangladesh in the past ten years.  Balu was the second Khulna press club president to be killed in 2004.

While the government continues to claim there is no press freedom problem in Bangladesh, armed groups and criminals of every stripe hold sway in entire regions of the country, the organisations said. They both called on the government, particularly the home affaires minister, to do everything possible to find and punish those behind the killing.

Attackers threw two bombs at Balu as he got out of his car in front of the Dainik Janmabhumi offices. He suffered serious stomach and leg injuries and died in hospital one hour later. His son, Asif Kabir, a journalism student, was seriously injured. Police sealed off the neighbourhood but failed to catch his attackers, who escaped on a motorbike. They found two intact metal bottles filled with explosives at the scene.

A man calling himself "Ripon Ahmed", the regional head of the Janajuddha (ML) faction of the clandestine Maoist Purba Bangla Communist Party, admitted responsibility in a telephone call to the Khulna press club of which Balu was president, calling him a "class enemy".

Several Khulna-based journalists said that Balu had received death threats in the previous weeks from criminals who demanded that he paid them the equivalent of 700 euros. The journalist had informed press club officials about the threats on 22 June.

Khulna journalists announced a week of demonstrations to call for justice and to pay tribute to their colleague, a veteran of the 1971 war of independence.

A Reporters Without Borders and BCDJC delegation went to Khulna in March 2002, in response to warnings from press club leaders, including Manik Shaha and Humayun Kabir Balu, about the constant threat to the local press from far-left movements, which after years of armed struggle, had really turned themselves into criminal gangs.

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