Reporters Without Borders has expressed renewed concern about working conditions for journalists in Bangladesh after death threats were made against at least five of them within one week, from 6-12 March 2005, in the south of the country.
The worldwide press freedom organisation called on interior minister Lutfozzaman Babor to safeguard journalists who "cannot work normally if they are at permanent risk of reprisals from criminals or even political party militants. It is urgent to put a stop to these threats and that those issuing them should be punished," it added.
Three journalists threatened by the Jamaat-e-Islami Party
Shumi Khan, correspondent in Chittagong in the southeast for Bangladesh’s leading weekly Shaptahik 2000, received a letter on 12 March that read, "If you write anything about Jamaat-e-Islami of Satkania [a Chittagong sub-district] from now on, we will kill you". The fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party is a member of the ruling coalition alongside the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
The Dhaka-based weekly published an article by Khan on 25 February implicating Shahjahan Chowdhury, a Jamaat-e-Islami member of parliament, in criminal and terrorist activities.
The investigative journalist was the victim of a knife attack in April 2004, so takes the death threats very seriously. She told Reporters Without Borders that she felt "in danger and did not know what to do". The editor of Shaptahik 2000 said the paper had received several phone threats during the past few days.
"Jamaat-e-Islami says that we publish false information to favour other parties, but it is not true. We asked the government to take effective measure whenever we were threatened, and we experienced that it doesn’t work".
Jamaat-e-Islami made the same threats on 10 March, also in Chittagong, against Shamaresh Boiddya, of the daily Bhorer Kagoj, and Jubayer Siddiqui, of the daily Ajker Surjodoy.
At a meeting four days earlier the head of Jamaat-e-Islami in Satkania, Nurul Haque, made extremely virulent threats against journalists who write about his party.
Two other journalists harassed by criminals
A death threat was also made on 12 March in Mirershorai, a close sub-district of Chittagong, against Salek Nasir Uddin of the daily Sangbad by Sultan Salah Uddin, a leader of Jubodal, an organisation linked to the BNP. The journalist had named him on a list of criminals that appeared in the newspaper. Uddin denied making any such threats, in the daily Prothom Alo.
Finally, on 6 March, Zillur Rahman Jalil, of the daily Janakantha in Patuakhali in the south of the country, received an anonymous letter that read, "Journalists of Khulna and Jessore are being killed, you also wrote about us. Be prepared, your turn is coming up."