Reporters Without Borders notes that Shahabuddin Lashkar Dhira, the presumed perpetrator of a bomb attack last February on the press club in the southwestern city of Khulna that killed journalist Sheikh Belaluddin Ahmed, was arrested on 5 July outside the headquarters of the criminal investigations department in the Malibagh district of Dhaka.
Dhira, 35, is a member of Jamaat e Islami (one of the smaller parties in the ruling coalition), as Ahmed was. He is suspected of involvement in many other acts of violence, but the main charge brought against him by a Dhaka court yesterday concerned Ahmed’s killing. The court rejected his request for release on bail.
Some sources claim that Dhira has made a lot of money from criminal activities that were the subject of some of Ahmed’s reports.
Maoist group admits responsibility for fatal Khulna bombing
An extremist Maoist group, the Purba Bangla Communist Party (PBCP) admitted responsibility on 11 February for a bombing one week earlier outside Khulna Press Club in south-west Bangladesh, which fatally wounded one journalist and injured three more.
A letter, signed by the group’s regional leader Sayeed Hasan Suman, was left in the letter box of the Khulna-based daily Purbanchal. It said that it had many more journalists in its sights who could suffer the same fate as journalist Sheikh Belaluddin Ahmed.
On the same day, Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia publicly voiced her regrets for the death of the daily Sangram’s correspondent, who died from his wounds six days after a bomb was left on his moped in front of the club.
Elsewhere, in a joint release, editors of 23 Dacca dailies expressed their concern at repeated attacks on Bangladesh journalists: "We note with regret that after each bombing or murder of a journalist the criminals manage to get clean away (...) It is time for concerted action. Journalists, editors and everyone involved in the media industry should unite to condemn these murders, the physical attacks and threats that journalists suffer," said the statement.
"We plan on using this campaign to pressure the government into ensuring that thorough investigations are conducted and that the murderers of journalists are punished," it added.
Journalists are to hold simultaneous demonstrations throughout Bangladesh at 11am on Saturday, 19 February, called by the Forum to Protect Journalists, a group created on 12 February 2005 at a crisis meeting in the capital.
Journalist dies from wounds in press club bomb attack
Reporters Without Borders said it was deeply saddened by the death of journalist Sheikh Belaluddin Ahmed of the daily Sangram, six days after he was critically wounded in a bomb attack against Khulna press club in south-west Bangladesh.
Ahmed, aged 48, died on 11 February in the intensive care unit of Dacca military hospital. Three other journalists were injured in the attack in which a bomb was placed in a bag and left on Ahmed’s moped in front of the club. It had detonated as he approached his machine.
"We have been drawing attention to the dangers faced by journalists in Bangladesh, particular in the Khulna region, for a long time now," said the worldwide press freedom organisation, expressing its support for the journalist’s family and colleagues.
"This tragic incident is a reminder that the authorities have to restore a climate in which press freedom can exist and put an end to the impunity enjoyed by the killers of journalists," it added.
Editor of Dainik Purbanchal, Alhaj Liaquat Ali, said on 6 February that attacks like the one on the Khulna press club the previous day had been made easier because of the impunity surrounding the murder of journalists Manik Saha and Humayun Kabir Balu in Khulna last year.
Speaking at a memorial ceremony for Ahmed at Dacca’s national mosque, Information Minister Shamsul Islam said, "We shall find the criminals and bring them to justice. They must be punished at all costs."
The three injured journalists, Sheikh Abu Hasan, of the daily Prothom Alo and chairman of the press club, Jahidul Islam, photographer for national daily Jugantor and Rafiul Islam Tutul, reporter for the daily Loksomaj published in Jessore in the south-west, have all recovered.
Police in Khulna arrested eight suspects, but only one of them has confessed to being involved in the 5 February bombing. Yunus Mridha, alias Goda Yunus, said he was a rickshaw driver asked by three people to put a bag holding the bomb on a moped in front of the press club. But, the police officer heading the investigation was quoted in the 10 February edition of Inqilab as denying this version of events. He said that Goda Yunus himself was responsible for the bombing.
A delegation of Khulna journalists is to travel to Dacca on 12 February to inform media bosses about the dangers they face, before holding a press conference at the capital’s press club.
Journalist Dip Azad, working for Jugantor in Khulna, had a narrow escape on 4 January when a home-made bomb was thrown at him but failed to detonate. From Dacca, he told Reporters Without Borders, "It is no longer possible to work in Khulna. Several journalists are considering giving up journalism under pressure from their families."
Sheikh Belaluddin Ahmed is the first journalist to be murdered in Bangladesh in 2005. Four journalists were killed last year.