The media are plentiful and free in Bangladesh, but the level of violence and threats is such that journalists investigating issues like corruption, organised crime, political and religious violence or massacres carried out by the Pakistani army and its Bangladeshi allies during the 1971 War of Independence, take enormous risks. Intolerance and political animosity have become the watchwords of Bangladesh. Groups of young activists, gangs of thugs, corrupt police officers and armed underground movements do not hesitate to attack journalists who disturb them. The confusing relationships among these different predators of press freedom make it even more difficult for media to carry out their work.
The impunity of those who attack the press encourages this constant violence. In most cases of murder and attempted murder, the police are unable to find the perpetrators’ exact identity and motives, and it is pointless to think of them discovering who ordered the attacks. When police investigations are successful, the judicial system drags on, delaying trials. Yet, occasionally, investigations do bear fruit: the murderers of journalist Shamsur Rahman, killed in 2000, are almost all identified. It is important to point out that his wife and the press never ceased demanding that justice be rendered in this case. Pressure from journalists’ and human rights organisations can force the authorities to react against impunity. On 24 August, the interim head of government asked the police to speed up their investigations on the murders and attacks of a dozen journalists. On 26 October, the Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia, asked that new investigations be opened into the murders of six journalists while the Awami League was in power.
According to journalist Saleem Samad, the level of violence against the press mainly depends on "journalists’ capacity for mobilisation". In cities such as Chittagong and Faridpur, where journalists’ organisations are united and active, violence is less frequent, and, above all, attackers are arrested more often. Press mobilisation can be very spectacular: in April, the Chittagong Press Club declared a week of demonstrations, and more than 300 Chittagong journalists made a human chain across the city to obtain the arrest of an elected official, a member of the party in power, guilty of attacking journalists.
During the final months of the Awami League government, violence, often orchestrated by activists of the party in power, reached disturbing levels. Two reporters, Tipu Sultan and Prabir Shikder, were brutally attacked by henchmen of protégés of Sheikh Hasina. The Prime Minister covered up the acts of violence perpetrated by his activists to the very end.
The arrival in power of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), in early October, led to a serious outburst of violence. After a landslide victory, supporters of Khaleda Zia and the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party took vengeance against journalists they accused of supporting the Awami League. More than 50 reporters were attacked or threatened with death in the first three months of this conservative government. Even more disturbing, the government arrested Shahriar Kabir, a well-known journalist who had just denounced violence against the Hindu minority on the BBC, and charged him with "sedition". The government’s intransigence in this case raises fears that Bangladesh’s independent press will face new ordeals.
Two journalists killed
On 23 April 2001, Nahar Ali, correspondent with a local Bengali-language newspaper Dainik Anirban in Khulna (south-eastern Bangladesh) died of his wounds at the town’s hospital. According to police and his family, Ali was kidnapped on 18 April in his village of Dumuria, a few kilometres from Khulna. He was found unconscious two days later, near his village, after being seriously beaten and tortured by his kidnappers. According to the doctors, he died of brain damage and severe bleeding, and his attackers broke his legs and arms. Police accused a radical leftist group, the Biplobi Communist Party, of being responsible for the killing. A minority of this armed movement has refused a general amnesty from the government and roams freely in the south of the country. The rebels frequently target civil servants and journalists who denounce their activities. A few days after the murder of Nahar Ali, the police announced the arrest of four suspects, militants of the dissident wing of the Biplobi Communist Party. They were Gostha Bihari Mandal, Nagendra Mandal, Nepal Mandal and Dipanker Mandal. They appeared before a magistrate and were then detained in Khulna police station.
Another journalist was murdered in 2001. But, as of 1 January 2002, it is impossible to say whether this murder was related to the victim’s activities as a reporter.
On 22 July, policemen found the mutilated body of Ahsan Ali, 48 years old and father of six children, correspondent with Dainik Jugantor (Narayanganj province, south Dhaka). Ali’s hands and feet were tied and his body bore signs of torture, notably stab wounds and acid burns on his face and chest. The police brought his body to the Narayanganj hospital for an autopsy. Near his body, investigators found a camera and a notebook where it was written, "They brought me to Kanchpur to kill me." Ahsan Ali was kidnapped on the night of 20 July. Police arrested two people, including Ali’s stepbrother, with whom he had a disagreement about the ownership of some family land. Shahida Akhter, Ahsan Ali’s wife, said that Ali had received death threats from Meher Ali, a local leader of the Chattra League, the student front of the Awami League, five days before his death. According to Shahida Akhter, this is the most serious lead.
New information on journalists killed before 2001
On 20 May 2001, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Jessore (west of the country) gave Magistrate Jahanara Begum the conclusions of the investigation into the July 2000 murder of Shamsur Rahman, correspondent with the daily Janakantha and stringer for the BBC. The file included charges against 16 people accused of "murder" and "conspiracy to murder". The suspects included five journalists and one member of the ruling party, Nasiruddin Kalu. Eight suspects had already been arrested and the police in Jessore were searching for the others. According to the investigation’s conclusions, Rahman’s murder was related to his articles regarding corruption and organised crime activities to which the suspects were allegedly linked. The file given to the magistrate included formal evidence of their complicity, said a police spokesman. The suspects included Mizanur Rahman Tota, bureau chief of the right-wing daily Inqilab in Jessore, and Benzin Khan, correspondent with a now defunct local newspaper. On 24 June, the government asked that Salim Reza, a Bangladeshi recently arrested in India for illegal residence, be extradited. Salim Reza was suspected of ordering this murder. This extradition request has still not been fulfilled.
For the last ten months, the widow of Shamsur Rahman and local journalist organisations in Jessore have maintained pressure on the authorities for a fair investigation on the case.
Three journalists kidnapped
On 15 June 2001, Atahar Siddik Chowdhury Khasru, correspondent with Dainik Ittefaq, in Sitakundu (a suburb of Chittagong, south-east of the country), was kidnapped while returning from a wedding. Two days later, the kidnappers asked his family for a ransom of almost 9,000 euros. His family said that he might have been kidnapped because of an article he recently wrote about a gang plundering boats that had washed up on the coast of Sitakundu. On 26 June, Atahar Siddique Chowdhury Khasru was released after being held for twelve days. Sitakundu police saved him just as his kidnappers were attempting to throw him off a bridge. He was taken unconscious to a hospital in Chittagong. Shortly after, he spoke of the torture he had undergone: men from the Mamun gang kept him chained and forced him to drink his urine and alcohol saying it was water.
On 16 June, Monirul Islam Dulu, correspondent with Dainik Inqilab in Bagherat (south of the country), was kidnapped by a gang in broad daylight, then taken to a remote location. He was hit with iron bars and forced to drink homemade alcohol. His attackers then took him unconscious to the police to file charges against him for extortion. He was presented to a court the next day and released on bail. According to Monirul Islam Dulu, this incident occurred because of an article he wrote about gang activity in the port of Mongla, in the east of the country. The article told about an "unofficial meeting" between gangs and a Mongla police official.
On 20 October, Jalal Chowdhury, correspondent with Dainik Janakantha, in Chandpur (south of the country), managed to escape the village of Shahdebpur where he had been held prisoner. He had gone there with a group of journalists to investigate violence against religious minorities. He managed to contact the police who freed the other kidnapped journalists, two hours later, and arrested the two kidnappers. These two men were repeat offenders who had defended the Awami League, before the elections, before joining the BNP.
Five journalists arrested
On 26 February 2001, Lytton Chakravorty, correspondent with Bhorer Kagoj, in Rajbari (west of Dhaka), was arrested following a "slander" complaint for his articles on irregularities and corruption in the management of Sadar hospital in Rajbari. Chakravorty was beaten, splashed with boiling water and forced to sleep in a four-foot wide room. He filed a request to be released on bail on 1 March, but this was turned down. Lytton Chakravorty was finally released in August.
On 9 March, police arrested Panthanibas Barua, correspondent with Daily Purbokone in Rangunia (south of the country), who they accused of publishing articles on corruption among local police. Some people said that police officers framed three correspondents in Rangunia. Barua was released on bail one month after his arrest.
On 16 June, Shamsul Alam Litton, journalist with Dainik Al Amin, in Narayanganj (near Dhaka), was arrested and charged with participating in a bombing during a rally of the Awami League. This bombing killed 22 people and seriously wounded more than a hundred, including Shamim Osman, a Member of Parliament. Before being arrested, Litton was beaten by activists of the party in power who wanted to lynch him. Police said that Shamsul Alam Litton belonged to a former right wing party, but gave no explanation of his involvement in the bombing. He was released after several months of investigation, but charges are still pending.
On 6 August, police arrested the free-lance journalist and writer Mahmud Musa in Raninagar (north-west of the country), following charges filed against him for "possession of banned publications". Police officers searched his house and seized several books, copies of the independent weekly Jai Jai Din, newsletters on human rights, and other magazines. According to police, these "banned publications" were related to clandestine far-left movements. This decision by police officer Aminul Islam was widely criticised, and the interim government recalled in a press release that these publications were sold freely in the country. Nevertheless, the district judge of Naogaon refused to release Mahmud Musa on bail. Musa had to wait more than a month to be released.
On 22 November, Shahriar Kabir, a free-lance journalist and documentary filmmaker, was arrested at the Dhaka International Airport when he arrived from Kolkata. The police questioned him for several hours. The police chief told the press that Kabir was "in possession of inflammatory documents that could endanger the stability of the country." The police seized his videotapes, his notes and his passport. Kabir had gone to India to cover the humanitarian situation at the Bangladesh border. Thousands of Hindus, suffering from religious violence at the hands of supporters of the ruling parties, had taken refuge in India. A few days before his arrest, Shahriar Kabir was interviewed by the BBC and gave some details about the violence committed against Hindu civilians. The coalition in power recognised these attacks, but accused Kabir of exaggerating their scope. Shahriar Kabir is a highly respected columnist in Bangladeshi liberal circles. He regularly writes for the daily Dainik Janakantha. He has published several investigative books notably about the 1971 War of Independence and the massacres committed by the Pakistani army and its Bangladeshi allies. He also questioned Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami leaders about these atrocities. On 23 November, a court ordered that Shahriar Kabir be held in accordance with the Special Powers Act of 1974. Shahriar Kabir could be detained for 90 days, for "reasons of the investigation." More than two thousand people demonstrated in Dhaka on 23 November to demand his release. The court also ordered the police to investigate him for "sedition" and "treason", charges punishable by the death penalty. In a press release dated 24 November, the government said that Shahriar Kabir was arrested "because it has been proven that his videos contained regrettable and false declarations which are prejudicial to the harmony of the community and subversive to the state", and "because he contributed to tarnishing the image of Bangladesh and its government overseas". On 9 December, the government told the police to file charges against Kabir according to articles 123 A (which sanctions anyone condemning the creation of the State or calling for the abolition of its sovereignty), 124 A (concerning sedition) and 505 A (which punishes damages while using language or other means) of the Penal Code. On 10 December, Shahriar Kabir was transferred by plainclothes policemen from the central prison of Dakha and placed in an interrogation cell, used both by the police and the army, in a police station in the capital. He was held there until 14 December, at which time the police asked the Dhaka court to extend his detention. The court only granted one additional day of detention. Several lawyers attended the hearing but were not allowed to speak to the journalist. They did nevertheless hear him say to the court, "I was placed in a small, dark, wet room with no food for two days," which raised fears that the journalist suffered other mistreatment. On 16 December, Shahriar Kabir was taken back to the central prison of Dhaka, after the court rejected his request to be released on bail on 11 December. On 20 December, the court again refused to release him on bail, and confirmed that he could be held for 90 days. Even though he was allowed to talk with his lawyer, Shawkat Ali Khan, neither his family nor his defenders could visit him. As of 1 January 2002, Shahriar Kabir is still in jail.
One hundred and three journalists attacked
On 1 January 2001, a photographer with the daily New Nation was severely injured by the explosion of a homemade bomb while covering a confrontation between two rival factions of the BNP in Dhaka. Salimullah Selim, injured in the head and legs, was hospitalised for several days.
Also on 1 January, Mehbub Alam Borno, journalist with the local daily Sonali Sangbad published in Rajshahi (west of the country), was attacked by half a dozen thugs who beat him severely and left him unconscious. The journalist had written articles on illegal gang activities.
On 11 January, Asoka Chowdhury, journalist with the Dainik Patratut published in Satkhira (south-west of the country), was assaulted in the street by supporters of the Islamist movement Kulia Union Parishad. They were celebrating the release on bail, the previous day, of their chief, Asadul Haque, accused of having ransacked the offices of the newspaper Dainik Satkhira Chitra, in October 2000.
On 13 January, a TV crew with the public channel Bangladesh Television, headed by journalist Syed Borhan Kabir, were assaulted by a hundred Islamist militants in Borga district (north of the country). A correspondent with the daily Jugantor, who accompanied them, was also injured during the attack. The TV crew had gone to the region to interview a Muslim cleric, Maulana Ibrahim, known to be the instigator of many fatwas. The crew wished to make a report on the recent decision of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh to consider fatwas illegal. According to the journalists, a hundred of Maulana Ibrahim’s supporters armed with spears and sticks attacked them. The militants locked the journalists and their crew in a small house all night and damaged their vehicles, cameras and accessories. It was only after police intervened, the next day, that they were released. The reporters filed a complaint according to the Public Safety Act.
On 25 January, masked men abducted and beat up Tipu Sultan, correspondent with the private press agency United News of Bangladesh (UNB) in Feni (south-east of the country). Sultan told Reporters without Borders what happened: "They kidnapped me in the middle of a street in Feni. Once I was in their car, they called their boss, the Member of Parliament Joynal Hazari, and asked him what they should do with me. I didn’t hear his answer, but I can figure it out now. They took me to an empty lot where they hit me with iron bars and hockey bats. Hazari’s henchmen left me for dead." Tipu Sultan was discovered unconscious a few hours later by policemen. He was taken to hospital where doctors recommended that he be transferred to Dhaka to avoid amputating his four limbs; both of Sultan’s arms and legs were broken. Witnesses confirmed Sultan’s story: the attackers were sympathisers of Joynal Hazari, the Awami League (the ruling party at the time) MP in Feni. Some of them were militants of the Bangladesh Chattra League (student front of the Awami League). The MP who criticised Tipu Sultan’s coverage several times denied any involvement in this attack. Sultan filed a complaint on 28 January in Dhaka where he was hospitalised. He accused Joynal Hazari and some of his sympathisers in his deposition. But the complaint was not registered at Feni police station because a member of the Feni Press Club, close to the MP, filed another complaint accusing the opposition of the attack. This manoeuvre by Hazari’s people blocked the investigation for several months. In addition, several sources said that the officer in charge of the investigation had links to Hazari as well. Police officers even accompanied Hazari’s henchmen when they went to the homes of Tipu Sultan’s supporters to threaten them with reprisals. The MP is known for his aggressive attitude toward the independent press. In 1994, he assaulted Mir Hossain Miru, a journalist with the local newspaper Dainik Feni Barta. In 1998, Joynal Hazari, also editor of the weekly Hazarika, banned the daily Dainik Janakantha in the area. The newspaper contained articles about his management of public affairs. Activists with ties to the MP attacked the newspaper’s correspondent. In addition, Tipu Sultan was in conflict with Joynal Hazari within the Feni Press Club. The MP is known for his habit of imposing his own candidates in the journalists’ association. A "hate article" against Tipu Sultan was even published in this weekly. In late April, the Home Affairs Minister visited the journalist in hospital. After giving financial support to Tipu Sultan, the minister promised to take into consideration the journalist’s requests to ensure the security of his family and to finally accept his complaint. American and German diplomats went to Sultan’s bedside. The mobilisation in favour of Tipu Sultan reached its peak when the Daily Star and Prothom Alo newspapers collected money for him so he could be hospitalised in Bangkok and have several operations to be able to use his hands again. In August, the police and the army, under orders from the interim government, searched the home of Joynal Hazari in Feni. Several of his close associates were arrested, but he escaped and went underground. Farooque Hossain Mridha, an advisor of Joynal Hazari and executive editor of the weekly Hazarika, was arrested and accused specifically in Tipu Sultan’s deposition. As of 1 January 2002, Joynal Hazari, former Member of Parliament, predator of press freedom, is still on the run, probably in India. Tipu Sultan can still not go to Feni, out of fear of being attacked again.
On 5 February, Zia Islam, photographer with the daily Prothom Alo, and a dozen other reporters were beaten while covering clashes between police and Islamist activists of Islamic Oikya Jote (IOJ), which left six dead and a hundred injured.
On 25 February, police officers entered the Press Club in Tangail (north of Dhaka) and struck nine journalists who were attending a press conference organised by students of the city. Iftekarul Anupam and Mizanur Rahman of the local newspaper Shaptahik Mul Swrot were hospitalised after this attack.
On 27 February, Harun Ansari Rudra, reporter with the daily Al Mujadded, was attacked by two shopkeepers in the city of Faridpur (west of Dhaka) while nearby police did not intervene. Rudra had denounced the sale of illegal products in this store. A complaint was filed with local police after this attack. Several hours later, the city’s police chief apologised to journalists who demonstrated in front of his office. Two days later, seven police officers were sanctioned but not suspended. The Minister of the Home Affairs intervened personally to speed up the investigation.
On 1 April, police officers attacked journalists and photographers covering demonstrations during the general strike called by the opposition. Shaukat Jamil, with Dainik Sangbad, and Jewel Samad, with Agence France-Presse, were hit and their film was confiscated. A police officer threatened to charge the journalists with throwing homemade bombs if they did not immediately leave the site of the demonstration. The same day, students close to the party in power attacked Borhanul Haque Samrat, of the daily Prothom Alo, after condemning articles he wrote critical to their activities on Dhaka campus.
On 2 April, Galman Shafi and Mashiur Rahman, journalists with Dainik Banglabazar, and Fazle Azim, reporter with Dainik Inqilab, were attacked by opposition supporters led by the former Mayor of Dhaka, Mirza Abbas. The journalists, who were covering a BNP demonstration, had to run away from the location of the demonstration under a hail of blows. At the same time, BNP demonstrators attacked press vehicles in the streets of the capital. A car belonging to the daily Bangladesh Observer was burned and its driver injured. The demonstrators especially attacked journalists considered favourable to the government. On the same day, two homemade bombs were thrown at the offices of the pro-governmental newspaper Ajker Kagoj in Dhaka. The explosions caused only material damage, but the journalists in the offices had to be evacuated. This newspaper is known for its criticism of the opposition. On 10 April, supporters of the BNP attacked and burned vehicles of the newspapers Dainik Jankantha, Ajker Kagoj, Financial Express, Banglabazar Patrika and Dainik Ittefaq in the streets of the capital during demonstrations organised by the opposition in Dhaka. This happened in spite of the distribution by the BNP of a statement asking supporters not to attack journalists.
In Narayanganj, a town near Dhaka, Banglabazar Patrika’s van was set ablaze by protesters. The driver was hospitalised for burns. An official of the BNP, questioned by Dainik Jankantha, said the perpetrators of the violence were "henchmen of the ruling party".
On 6 April, Mamoon Abedin, photographer with Dainik Bhorer Kagoj, was wounded in the head by buckshot fired by a police officer attempting to break up a demonstration of Islamist activists in Dhaka. When the policeman fired in the air, he probably unintentionally hit the photographer who was standing on a bridge to cover the clashes. His colleagues took him, bleeding, to a hospital in the city.
On 12 April, M. Abdullah, reporter with Dainik Inqilab, was hit and insulted by supporters of the opposition BNP party, in Dhaka, in front of the residence of the leader, before police intervened. He had just attended a press briefing by Khaleda Zia when he was attacked by youths identified as activists of this party.
On the night of 19 April, Iskandar Ali Chowdhury and Jalal Uddin Chowdhury, editors of the daily Purbokone in Chittagong (south-east of the country), were threatened with a gun during an attack of the newspaper’s offices by Mamunur Rashid Mamun, a local elected official of the Awami League, and his supporters. Mamun, who was furious about an article that mentioned him, yelled threats at the journalists, vandalised the offices, and attempted to destroy compromising information about himself. Iskandar Ali Chowdhury was dragged in the street and beaten by activists. The managing editor of Purbokone filed a complaint with the Panchlaish police station, demanding that the guilty party be arrested within 24 hours. The local Journalists’ Union called for a week of demonstrations to obtain the arrest of Mamunur Rashid Mamun. According to journalists, this Awami League elected official is at the origin of many attacks against opponents and reporters in Chittagong. On 29 April, more than 300 Chittagong journalists went on strike and made a human chain across the city to demand his arrest. After this demonstration, the Minister of the Home Affairs called for Mamun’s arrest, but the police said he could not be found. A few days later, Mamun turned himself in and was placed in detention.
On 22 April, Prabir Shikder, correspondent with the newspaper Dainik Janakantha in Faridpur (west of the capital), was attacked by three unidentified people waiting in a van. They attacked the journalist while he was driving his motorcycle in the streets of Faridpur. They threw homemade bombs at him and shot him three times at close range. Before escaping, the attackers indiscriminately struck him with machetes. Prabir Shikder was transferred to a Dhaka hospital where doctors had to amputate his right leg because of a serious bullet wound. Nobody claimed responsibility for the attack but some of his colleagues said it was in retaliation for articles Prabir Shikder wrote about war criminals of the 1971 Bangladesh War of Independence. The journalist and his family had been regularly threatened since these articles were published. The same day, police claimed to have arrested two suspects, Shahidul Islam, 27, and Mohammad Rahman, 24. According to the local press, their interrogations only began a few days later because the investigating officer was not available. In late April, the authorities were reluctant to speak about the case and did not meet with journalists who were demonstrating in the streets of Faridpur after the attack. Judicial authorities even refused to receive the petition from journalists of the Faridpur Press Club. A few days after Prabir Shikder’s amputation, the Minister of the Home Affairs visited him in the hospital. Several media have implicated the businessman Musa-bin-Shamsher, brother-in-law of the current Minister of Health, in this premeditated assault. Shikder had revealed that Musa-bin-Shamsher had supported Pakistani troops during the 1971 War of Independence. This influential man, who sends Bangladeshis to work in Persian Gulf countries, allegedly threatened Prabir Shikder with death after the publication of this article. On 28 April, one of the suspects in the attempted murder of Prabir Shikder confessed his participation in the attack. 26-year-old Hafizur Rahman, called Nobel, told Judge Hamidur Rahman that he was a member of a gang led by Nuru. They were contracted by Hafizur Rahman Hafiz, a businessman with ties to Musa-bin-Shamsher. Two others suspects detained, Shahidul and Lenin, still denied their involvement in the crime. The gang allegedly received 500,000 taka (around 9,000 euros) for killing the journalist. Journalists in Faridpur decided to begin a hunger strike on 30 April and organise a human chain in the town. They feared the authorities would try to cover up this incident. On 3 May, the Prime Minister announced thatthegovernmentwouldpayall of the amputated journalist’s medical expenses. As demonstrations continued in Faridpur, the government decided, on 7 May, to entrust the investigation to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) after local police were unable to identify those responsible for the attack.
On 24 April, Muniruddin Ahmed, correspondent with Dainik Inqilab in Khulna, was attacked by activists of the party in power who were demonstrating against the general strike called by the opposition. The journalist was saved by police from being beaten by a mob. The journalist with this Bengali-language daily, favourable to the opposition Islamist party, was accused of making discourteous comments about the Prime Minister. The activists also asked him to leave the city or face additional reprisals. In February, another journalist, Anwar Zahid, correspondent in Faridpur, was attacked by activists from the Awami League.
On 25 April, Rashed Mehdi, correspondent with the newspaper Dainik Sangbad at Jahangirnagar University, was insulted and roughed up by young activists of the Awami League student front. On 28 April, journalists of the Jahangirnagar University Association marched in silence on the campus, black gags over their mouths, to protest against the attack on Rashed Mehdi, former general secretary of JUJA. Six journalists were attacked or harassed since June 2000 on the campus by activists of various political parties.
On 25 April, Sentu Azad, correspondent with Dainik Dinkal in Lalpur, was attacked by unknown men while leaving the Press Club. He managed to take refuge in the police station.
On 27 April, Kamruzzaman Bachchu, correspondent with the newspaper Dainik Janakantha in Baufal (southern coast of the country), was attacked by the son of a man whom he had identified as a collaborator with the Pakistani army during the War of Independence. The investigation was printed on the first page of Dainik Janakantha, and the journalist had already been warned by the same person to leave Baufal. He had immediately told the police.
On 3 May, Shahidul Alma Imran, editor-in-chief of the local newspaper Shaptahik Otheb and correspondent with Dainik Manav Zamin in Feni district (south-east of the country), was attacked by thugs armed with sticks and guns who broke his left leg. After he was transferred to hospital, the journalist said that he could recognise his attackers, who, according to him, were working for Member of Parliament Joynal Hazari. Imran had recently published an article in the national press about extortions organised by supporters of this Awami League Member of Parliament. Out of fear of reprisals, Shahidul Alma Imran left the hospital and recovered at his home.
On the night of 6 May, Nazmul Imam, correspondent with the newspaper Manavjamin in Kusthia district (west of the country), narrowly escaped being kidnapped while returning to his home. Eight masked and armed men stopped his rickshaw and asked him to follow them. Nazmul Imam refused and ran toward a police station. One of the attackers attempted to stab Imam, but he reached the police station safely. Nazmul Imam had recently investigated organised crime activities of a local gang.
On 7 May, Igbal Mansoor, photo reporter with the newspaper Shyamol Sylhet, was attacked by armed men in the east of the city of Sylhet (east of the country). The newspaper’s managing editor had asked Mansoor to take pictures of an illegal store. When he was there, Mansoor was kidnapped by armed men who took his camera, portable telephone, money and Dictaphone, and told him, while threatening him with a gun, not to publish any pictures nor to go to the police. He was released two hours later after accepting his kidnappers’ conditions.
On 13 May, Rashed Anwar, editor-in-chief of the local newspaper Dainik Prothom Rajdhani in Chuadanga (west of the country), was stabbed by thugs. They criticised him of publishing an article, the previous day, on a system used to shake down public transportation in the city. Anwar, suffering from several knife wounds, was taken to hospital. Several minutes before the attack, thugs invaded the offices of Dainik Prothom Rajdhani. The newspaper filed a complaint and obtained police protection.
On 14 May, an organised crime group attacked Rashed Ferdous, managing editor of the local newspaper Prothom Rajdhani in Chuadanga (west of the country), after an article was published about a system this gang used to shake people down. The wounded journalist was taken to hospital. He had already received threats the previous week.
On 18 May, offices of the weekly Shaptahik Munshiganj in Munshiganj (south of Dhaka) were attacked. Russell Mahmood, news editor, was attacked and threatened with death. This incident occurred after the magazine published an investigation on criminal organisations in the city that angered the local godfather.
On 24 May, Nur Islam, correspondent with Dainik Manabzamin in Jessore (south-west of the country), was attacked during a kidnapping attempt. While riding in a bus, unknown people threw homemade bombs at him and hit him with sticks. Nevertheless, he managed to escape. Shortly before the attack, Nur Islam had written articles in Dainik Manabzamin about far-left activists who refused the government’s general amnesty, committed extortions and kidnappings, and covered up illegal trafficking between India and Bangladesh. In the days following the attack, the journalist was threatened with death. Rokonuddowla, correspondent with Dainik Sangbad, was also threatened by clandestine groups, some of whose members were suspected of the murder of a BBC reporter, Shamsur Rahman, in 2000.
On the night of 23 June, Monir Hossain, a journalist with Dainik Ajker Barta and correspondent with Bangladesh Television (BTV) in Barisal, was followed by three men riding motorbikes who attacked him with homemade bombs. He managed to escape and get back to his home. The police seized one of the bombs, which had not exploded, to try to identify the perpetrators.
On July 1, Mahfizur Rahman, correspondent with Dainik Matribhumi in Bagerhat (south of the country), was attacked by unknown men near his home. The attackers blocked his motorcycle before hitting him with a sledgehammer, breaking his leg. They then stole his mobile phone. Rahman was assisted by neighbours and rushed to the city’s hospital. Some journalists from Bagerhat maintain that this attack was probably linked to Rahman’s articles about the environmental consequences of intensive shrimp production intended for exportation. In the past, farm owners had threatened several journalists. Two days later, a report from the Bagerhat police angered journalists in the city, already outraged by the attack of their colleague Mahfizur Rahman. The report concerned the attempted murder of Shahadat Ali, of Bhorer Kagoj, in January 2000. The investigators gave an incomplete version of the attack of this journalist, who has remained handicapped.
On 3 July, Abu Saleh Akon and Nasim Sikdar, respectively news reporter and photographer with the newspaper Dainik Inqilab, were attacked and severely beaten. They had been warned of an operation carried out by armed men together with the police; when they arrived at the site, they were attacked, thrown to the ground and beaten. The police involved in the attack confiscated the journalist’s mobile phone and damaged the photographer’s camera and film.
On 10 July, Muniruzzaman Monir, correspondent with the daily Prothom Alo in Sonargaon (Dhaka area) was roughed up by activists of the Awami League student front. He was hospitalised for several hours. Several hours earlier, the student organisation had burned in the street several hundred copies of Prothom Alo and Dainik Jugantor which contained articles claiming that activists had deliberately blocked a highway to prevent opponents from reaching a demonstration. On 12 July, Prothom Alo published an editorial, "How many new attacks against journalists?" in which the editor of the newspaper pointed out that Monir’s attackers were arrested in 2000 for attacking him a first time, but had been released on bail and were awaiting trial.
On 22 July, Ataur Rahman, correspondent with the daily Prothom Alo in Parbatipur (north of the country), was attacked by members of the Awami League. His attackers took him by force to a secluded area then beat him up. They did not appreciate articles he had published about the leader of their group. They also threatened to kill the reporter if he wrote new articles about them.
During the week of 23 July, seven journalists fled the city of Gaunardi, near Barisal (south of the country) after repeated assaults and death threats. Jahirul Islam of Prothom Alo, Gias Uddin of Dainik Ittefaq, Mohammad Jamal Uddin of Dainik Jugantor, Mohammad Hanif of Dainik Provat, Asaduzzaman Ripon of Bhorer Kagoj, Khandoker Muniruzzaman Monir of Dainik Dinkal, and Kandker Kauser Hossain of Ajker Kagoj, all correspondents with national dailies in Guarnadi, decided to leave town. On 16 July, Jahirul Islam escaped a murder attempt. Activists injected him with poison from a syringe. He was rushed unconscious to the Barisal hospital. While he was recovering, activists of the Bangladesh Chattra League threatened to kill his family. Gias Uddin, Mohammad Jamal Uddin and Mohammad Hanif had also been attacked by activists. Asaduzzaman Ripon, Khandoker Muniruzzaman Monir and Khandker Kauser Hossain had received death threats. They all filed complaints against their attackers with the police, but they received no assurance about their safety. The journalists who implicated the activists of the Bangladesh Chattra League, the student front of the Awami League, and especially their leader, Reazul Karim Akandh, claimed that he enjoyed impunity in the city. The police arrested only Babu, a Chattra League member. On 3 August, several journalists decided to return to Gaurnadi after receiving guarantees that police would protect them. Several days later, police arrested Rezaul Karim Akandh in his village. He was placed in detention.
On 27 July, Ashok Dey, correspondent with Dainik Kalyan in Keshabpur (near Jessore in the south-west of the country), was attacked by unknown people who broke his hand. This attack followed a complaint filed by the journalist, on 18 July, against activists who threatened to kill him. According to some witnesses, these attackers might have been members of the Awami League.
On 4 August, Abdul Kalam Mahmud Azad, correspondent with the newspaper Prothom Alo in Bagha (near Rajshahi, west of the country), was a victim of a murder attempt by armed members of the Islami Chattra Shibir, the student branch of the Jamaat-e-Islami party. While he was riding his bicycle in the centre of the town, on his way home, a dozen young activists attacked him with knives and iron rods. The attackers abandoned the journalist, assuming he was dead. Abdul Kalam Mahmud Azad was taken to the local hospital and later to Rajshahi hospital where he was treated for cuts and contusions. The previous day, Prothom Alo published on its back page an article by Azad about vandalism committed by fundamentalist activists against a Hindu village. The villagers left their homes, afraid of new attacks. This article implicated two local Islamist leaders, Jinnat and Quader. In July 2000, two other journalists Mabub Alam and Jahangir Alam Aakash, respectively correspondents with Dainik Dinkal and Dainik Sangbad in Rajshahi, had already received death threats after reporting violence by Islami Chattra Shibir members.
On 7 August, Bulu Sharif, correspondent with the newspaper Dainik Jugantor in Magura (south-west of the country) was attacked by BNP activists and taken to hospital in critical condition. While returning home at night, a group of attackers, led by Shafiqul Islam Roman, a political activist with the BNP and nephew of the former Minister of Natural Resources, Majel-ul-Haque, accosted him. They criticised Sharif for articles he had written about the former minister, then punched and kicked him. He was also stabbed in the left eye. The attackers left him for dead, and ran away when neighbours called for help. Taken to hospital, Sharif had to have surgery on his eye and nose. The police promised to arrest the attackers; they have not yet done so.
On 10 August, riot police entered the Rangpur Press Club (north of the country) and hit the journalists present. Sajjad Hossain Babpi, correspondent with Dainik Ittefaq, Ali Ashraf, journalist with the newspaper Muktakantha and Bangladesh TV, Wadud Ali, journalist with Dainik Ittefaq, Shahidul Islam Alamgir, free-lance journalist, Ashraf Ali Kiran, photographer with Dainik Paribesh, and Abdur Rashid Babu, general secretary of the Press Club, were wounded during the attack. The police officers had been called to end clashes between rival political parties. This attack angered Rangpur journalists who blocked traffic in the city for several hours and published blank pages in their newspapers. Local authorities set up an investigation committee and suspended the police officer who made the decision to enter the club.
On 27 September, eight journalists, Fazlur Rahman, secretary of the Pabna Press Club and correspondent with the newspaper Jugantor, Anwarul Haq, correspondent with Ittefaq, Abdul matin Khan, correspondent with Prothom Alo, Murshed Subhani, correspondent with Inquilab, Zahurul Islam, correspondent with Bangla Bazaar, Utpal Mirza, correspondent with Dinka, Sharif Mamhud, correspondent with Jugantor in Chatmohor and Shafiqul Islam, correspondent with Manab Zamin, were attacked by individuals suspected to be members of the Parbhangura Union armed group in Pabna, in north-western Bangladesh. While the journalists were covering clashes in the neighbourhood, their van was attacked by activists who forced them to get out, beat them, and stole their cameras, money and identity papers.
Between 5 and 7 October, three journalists were violently attacked in Satkhira (south-west of the country). On 5 October, Abdul Wahab, correspondent with the daily Samachar, was taken to hospital after being assaulted by unidentified people in the street. The following day, Moslem Ahmed, correspondent with the now defunct governmental newspaper Banglar Bani, was beaten near the bazaar at Kolarua in Satkhira. According to the press freedom watchdog group Media Watch, the police arrested him after this attack for unknown reasons. On 7 October, Abu Ahmed, correspondent with Daily Star and local leader of a trade union linked with Awami League, was attacked by four people for unknown motives.
On 6 October, Chakor Malitha, correspondent with Prothom Alo at Jahangirnagar University (near Dhaka), was attacked by activists of the student branch of the BNP, Jatiyatabadi Chattra Dal (JCD). A group of students chased the journalist in the university. While he was trying to take a bus to escape to the centre of Dhaka, Chakor Malitha was beaten with metal bars and sticks. Seriously injured, he was taken to a hospital where doctors had to give him 25 stitches. According to some of the journalist’s colleagues, activists thought he had to "pay" for Prothom Alo’s coverage of Jatiyatabadi Chattra Dal’s activities. Jahidul Islam, correspondent with the daily Jugantor at the same university, also received death threats from BNP supporters.
On 8 October, BNP student branch activists attacked Swapan Basu, reporter for the governmental news agency Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha at Dhaka University. Beaten by a group of around 15 militants, the young correspondent, also an Awami League student branch supporter, was later taken to hospital. He lost two teeth. Two press photographers, Zia Islam and S. M. Gorky, were also attacked while they took pictures of assault on Swapan Basu.
On 16 October, Saiful Islam Rob, correspondent with Dainik Jugantor in Agoiljhara (near Barisal, south of the country), was assaulted while on his way to cover an incident involving political groups. The assailant was not identified but the journalist had recently written an article accusing delinquents close to the BNP of being involved in a system extorting money from bazaar traders.
On 16 October, Arup Rai, correspondent with Prothom Alo in Manikganj (west of Dhaka), was brutally attacked by activists of the ruling party’s student branch. The journalist was at the barber’s when Abu Bakar, a teacher, and his brother Jatiyatabadi Chattra Dal (JCD) local section director, asked to talk to him. Arup Rai followed the two men to a deserted street where a dozen JCD activists were waiting for them. After criticizing him for writing an article that implicated him in the attack of a student, the teacher and activists beat him, leaving him unconscious. Arup Rai managed to reach the police station and was taken to the emergency room at Manikganj Hospital. The journalist claimed that he could identify his attackers. BNP activists had already threatened him during the electoral campaign.
On 16 October, Shafiqul Islan, correspondent with the newspaper Sangram in Bhavanigonj (Rajshahi province, west of the country), was attacked by a group of thugs in the street. He was dragged to an empty lot where his attackers beat him and threatened to kill him if he continued to expose their illegal activities in the newspaper. Shafiqul Islan, general secretary of the local Press Club, filed a complaint.
On 20 October, Hasan Parvez, correspondent with the newspaper Samachar in Patuakhali region (south of the country), was wounded by an unknown assailant at his home. He was taken to hospital unconscious, and later filed a complaint with police, who did not determine the reasons for this attack.
On 22 October, Muktar Hossain Golap, correspondent with Dainik Sangbad in Mitamoin (near Kishoreganj, north-west of Dhaka), was pursued by armed assailants who seemed to enjoy protection from officials of the ruling party. These officials went to the police to explain that the assailants had used a plastic gun to threaten the journalist. Hossain Golap filed a complaint against his assailants. The journalist had published an article two days earlier about arms smuggling in the area, illustrated by a photo of an armed Kishoreganj delinquent. Police refused to accept the journalist’s complaint.
On 26 October, Rafiqul Hasan Tuhin, correspondent with Dainik Janakantha in Habiganj (north-east of Bangladesh), was seriously beaten by young BNP activists. They criticised him for writing about repression against the Hindu minority. After being beaten and kicked, Hasan Tuhin was threatened with a knife. The intervention of a police officer allowed him to escape. He had to be hospitalised for several hours. Hasan Tuhin filed a complaint and asked police for protection. His attackers later came to his home and threatened his family with reprisals if he continued writing about violence against Hindus.
On 3 November, Sohel Rana, photographer with Ajker Kagoj in Chittagong (south-east of the country), was attacked and had his camera stolen by members of the student movement of the Jamaat-e-Islami (fundamentalist party). The photographer was covering a confrontation between the young Islamists and activists of the former ruling party, the Awami league. Sohel Rana protested to an official of the Islamist movement. He was given back his camera and received apologies.
On 4 November, Hafizur Rahman Nion, correspondent with Dainik Prothom Alo in Habiganj (north-east of the country), was attacked at his home and seriously wounded in the face and eyes by a group of thugs that seemed to be led by a police informer. The police did not intervene.
On 11 November, armed activists of the Jatiyatabadi Juba Dal (JJD), burst into a press conference organised in Bagerhat (south-west of the country) by Mozzamel Haque, leader of the Awami league (main opposition party). Babul Sardar, correspondent with Dainik Janakantha, Binud Prasad Chakrabarti, correspondent with the TV channel ETV and the press agency UNB, Ahad Haider, correspondent with Prothom Alo, Shah-e-Alam Tuku, correspondent with BSS press agency, Azadul Haque, correspondent with the Dainik Runner, and Abdur Rob Mollah, correspondent with Dainik Janmabhumi in Khulna, were wounded by the attackers. Babul Sardar was seriously wounded in the head and neck. Police arrested five attackers, among them Mahbubur Rahman Tutul, the local JJD leader responsible for the attack.
On 12 November, activists of the Jatiyatabadi Chattra Dal (JCD), a student organisation close to the BNP, attacked Sardar Zobair Hossain, a student and correspondent with the newspaper Ittefaq at Jahangirnagar University. The activists threatened to kill him if he didn’t leave the campus. The previous day, Sardar Zobair Hossain had written an article about this student group’s involvement in violence and racketeering.
On 18 November, henchmen of ruling party Member of Parliament Abdul Momen Talukder raided the house of Rafiqul Islam Montu, correspondent with Dainik Karotua in Santahar (north of the country). They manhandled him and took him to Talukder’s home. The MP criticised the journalist for not referring to him as "Honourable" or "Mister" in his articles. The correspondent was insulted before being allowed to leave. The Santahar Press Club immediately decided to boycott the MP.
On 20 November, Kamruzaman Kanu, journalist with the weekly Sachetan Kantha in Jamalpur (north of the country), was attacked by employees of the Municipal Engineering Department who criticised an article he wrote, which was published in the national press, on corruption in this public office. After the journalist filed a complaint, the police arrested an engineer.
On 29 November, Niaz Ahmed Labu, journalist with Dainik Janakantha, was kidnapped in a street in Motijheel quarter (Dhaka) by unknown men who took him to an empty lot and beat him with iron bars. They then took him to the offices of the "Johny" soap company and forced him to sign a document promising he would no longer write about this company nor file a complaint with police for this attack. After they hit him again, the thugs left him on the side of a road in the capital. His family was alerted and they took him to the nearest hospital. Niaz Ahmed Labu had recently written an article about this company, accused of producing poor quality soap and defrauding people. Labu filed a complaint, and several hours later, the police arrested two delinquents who had allegedly been hired by the company’s owner, Illais Ali, who was not worried by this affair.
In early December, Mizanur Rahman Miju, correspondent with Dainik Janakantha in Motbaria (Barisal quarter, south of the country), was wanted by police for the attempted murder of a member of the BNP. While the police were preparing a list of suspects, Member of Parliament Rustam Ali Farazi insisted that this journalist’s name be added to the list. A warrant was issued for his arrest. The Member of Parliament had been irritated by the publication of an article, on the front page of this newspaper, presenting him as a war criminal.
On 23 December, Abdus Satter, correspondent with the newspaper Dainik Ajker Kagoj in Chapainawabganj (north of the country), was beaten by a group of delinquents while attempting to release his brother who they had kidnapped a few hours before. The journalist and his brother were beaten in front of policemen who did not intervene. The two men were taken unconscious to hospital in Rajshahi. Several hours later, a demonstration was organised to protest against the incapacity of police to arrest delinquents.
On 27 December, the Nikklee Press Club was attacked by activists of the youth branch of the BNP in Kishoreganj (north-east of Dhaka). In the middle of the day, activists burst into the press club offices, sacked them and threatened the journalists present with reprisals if they continued writing about them. Some journalists said this attack occurred because of the publication, several days earlier, of an article about the management of clandestine casinos by leaders of BNP youth branch.
Forty-nine journalists threatened
On 9 February 2001, Abu Mustafa, correspondent with the daily Prothom Alo for Rajshahi region (west of the country), received telephone threats from a police officer. The previous day, Mustafa had written an article about internal conflicts within the police department.
On 16 February, customs agents of the Lalmonirhat district (north-west of the country) roughed up and threatened to kill a group of journalists who had come to investigate accusations of embezzlement. Shahiful Alam Labu, with the daily Karotoa, and Azizul Haq Dulal, with the daily Juger Alo, were insulted and threatened with death if they came back to this border post with India. The press regularly wrote about smuggling affairs involving customs officials.
On 20 February, Kalyan Banerjee, correspondent with Prothom Alo in Sathkira (western border of the country), was given police protection after receiving three anonymous letters containing death threats. On 13 February, he had managed to escape members of the BNP who accused him of writing too much about political issues.
On 26 April, Mustafa Kamal Sarkar and Benjir Ahmed Benu, respectively correspondent with Dainik Janakantha and Ajker Kagoj in Narsingdi (east of Dhaka), received death threats by telephone from activists criticizing articles they wrote about tensions within their party caused by the selection of candidates for the upcoming elections. The two journalists, also in charge of the Press Club, were told to not "sully the image of their leader".
On 26 April, Anisuzzaman, correspondent with Dainik Janakantha, and Anu Mustafa, correspondent with Prothom Alo in Rajshahi (west of the country), were threatened with death after their respective newspapers published pictures of armed members of the Awami League attacking an opposition demonstration. One of the leaders of the gang supporting the Awami League also filed a complaint against the two journalists at a Rajshahi police station. Police officers did not arrest this delinquent even though there were several arrest warrants outstanding for him.
On 26 April, Mohamad Moklesur Rahman, correspondent with Manabzamin in Patuakhali (south of the country), was threatened with death by a drug smuggler who was angry about an article the reporter had written on the authorities’ inactivity concerning the rising drug smuggling problem.
In early May, an official of the city of Narsingdi (east of Dhaka) threatened Habibur Rahman Habib, correspondent with Prothom Alo in this city, with reprisals. A judge subpoenaed Habib, who had denounced embezzlement and nepotism in this city several times, after the official filed a complaint. Several days later, the president of Narsingdi Press Club, Mostafa Kamal Sarker, received an anonymous death threat by telephone. The caller said he would destroy the Press Club if journalists of the district did not change their coverage of local politics.
On 5 May, Arup Roy, correspondent with daily Prothom Alo in Manikgonj, received an anonymous death threat on his mobile telephone. He had just published an article about corruption involving an illegal market set up by a local leader of the Awami League. The mobile phone number this "anonymous" phone call was made from was that of the politician in question. The journalist filed a complaint and requested protection.
After the publication on 6 May, in the daily Bhorer Kagoj, of an article on the Jamaat-e-Islami fundamentalist movement, Seikh Selim, correspondent with this newspaper in Jenidah district (west of the country), received threats from Abdul Ali, leader of the organisation.
On 8 May, Tariqul Haque Tariq, correspondent with Prothom Alo in Kushtia (west of the country), received death threats by telephone. Tariq had written an article about the existence of an extortion racket run by a police officer who was planning to run for office.
Following the publication on 12 May, in the daily Manavjamin, of a list of fourteen delinquents in the district of Faridpur (west of Dhaka), Qamruzzaman Sohel, correspondent with this newspaper in the region, was threatened by a clandestine movement to have his legs cut off. The armed group cited the example of Prabir Sikder, with the daily Janakantha, who lost a leg during a recent attack.
In late May, Rokkonuddowla, correspondent with the dailyDainik Sangbad,wasthreatenedwith death by Aasaduzzaman Litu, leader of the Awami Jubo League (youth branch of the party in power). Litu, considered to be the main suspect in the murder of Shamsur Rahman, correspondent with Dainik Janakantha, escaped police and went underground.
On 16 June, unknown people came to Mohammad Shahidul Islam’s home twice. This journalist, a correspondent with Dainik Jugantor in Senbagh, was out at the time, but the attackers assaulted his family and threatened to return and kill him. Mohammad Shahidul Islam had recently published articles on the activities of a group of delinquants linked with local politicians. The journalist asked for police protection.
On 17 June, members of the Awami League in Barisal (south of the country) attacked the newspaper Ajker Kagoj. They seized copies of the paper and burned them in the street, and threatened to block the sale of Ajker Kogoj by force in the city. Also, newspaper staff received death threats by telephone. The newspaper had recently published articles on internal rivalries in the party. In order to prevent another attack, the police protected the newspaper’s offices in Barisal and Dhaka.
On 20 June, an underground Islamist group made death threats to photographer Shahjaban Hossain Badshah of the Dainik Sonali Sangbad published in Rajshabi. A message appeared on his mobile phone: "This is your last warning! You will be killed in the next seven days." A mysterious "Taliban group" sent the message.
On 25 June, the home of Anisur Rahman, photographer with the national newspaper Daily Star, was attacked by people close to someone who died in the fire; they did not appreciate photos taken of them during the incident. Anisur Rahman was not at home.
On 25 June, the Sathkira Press Club (south-west of the country) asked for protection and improved security for correspondents of the main national newspapers, including Dainik Janakantha and Prothom Alo, after they were added to a "black list" by local criminals.
In mid-July, individuals attacked the home of Al Amin Shahriar, correspondent with Dainik Manav Zamin in Bhola (southern Bangladesh), with homemade bombs. The journalist was not injured, but his elder brother suffered burns. A week earlier, Al Amin Shahriar had received death threats from activists of the Chattra League who criticised his articles on corruption and nepotism of local leaders of the Awami League. On 21 October 2000, activists already beat up the journalist. He had just published an article on the deterioration of public safety in Bhola. After Al Amin lodged a complaint with the police, his attackers threatened him with reprisals.
On 3 July, Khandker Kauser Hossain, journalist with the daily Ajker Kagoj, and Manirruzaman, correspondent with Dainik Dinkal in Gaurnadi (Barisal province, south of the country), were threatened with death by activists of the Bangladesh Chattra League, linked to the Awami League. Activists came to their homes and warned them of "serious consequences" for them and their families after the publication of an article about local criminal activities in newspapers dated 28 June.
On 20 July, Satyajit Ghosh, correspondent with Dainik Jugantor in Shariatpur (south-west of the country), received anonymous death threats. He was told that he could have his "hand cut off" if he continued writing about problems of criminality in this region and was reminded what happened to journalist Ahsan Ali, killed shortly before in Rupganj. These threats were renewed several times in the following days.
On 3 August, Azharul Haq Arzoo, president of the Chattra League in Feni, close to the Member of Parliament Joynal Hazari, threatened to kill Mohammad Jamaluddin, correspondent with Dainik Manav Zamin. Two days earlier, unknown people had thrown homemade bombs at the journalist’s home. The home of Baktiarul Islam Munna, correspondent with the newspaper Dainik Ittefaq and the private television channel Ekushey TV, was also attacked with Molotov cocktails. These attacks only caused material damage.
During the week of 7 August, Shafik Rehman, editor of the independent weekly Jai Jai Din, received death threats after criticising the poor administration under the government of Sheikh Hasina.
Starting on 10 August, Mohammad Sikander Hossain, correspondent with Ajker Kagoj in Sitakundu (suburb of Chittagong), received death threats from a gang with links to the Awami League. This occurred after a series of stories about activities of this organised crime group was published in this newspaper on 7, 8 and 9 August, 2001. The gang, who threatened to kill Mohammad Sikander Hossain if he continued with his investigations, also filed a false complaint for slander. In June, journalist M. Khasru had been kidnapped and tortured by the same gang.
On 19 August, a criminal who had gone underground, Shamsul Alam Swapan, threatened to kill six journalists in Kushtia (west of the country). Fearing for their lives, Tariqul Haque Tariq, correspondent with Prothom Alo, Munshi Tariqul Islam, correspondent with Ajker Kagoj and the press agency United News of Bangladesh, Al Mamum, correspondent with Dainik Matribhumi, Manjur Ehsan Chowdhury, S.M. Halimuzzaman and Anisuzzaman Dablu, respectively editor-in-chief, managing editor and reporter with the local newspaper Dainik Andolaner Bazar, asked for police protection. The criminal threatened to kill the journalists’ families, and some of these people went into hiding out of fear of reprisals.
On 3 October, a group of delinquents attacked the houses of three journalists working in Bhola (south of the country). They first went to Jugantor correspondent Amitabah Apu’s house. They looted it, fired shots, and threw a Molotov cocktail. The journalist was not at home. They then went to Prothom Alo correspondent Farid Hossain Babul’s house, which they also looted and attempted to set fire to. Finally, they attacked the house of Habibur Rahman, editor of local newspaper Banglar Kantha. They disconnected the phone lines.
In October, Maulana Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, Member of Parliament of Jamaat-e Islami, threatened Shafiul Haque Mithu, correspondent with the private newspaper Dainik Janakantha, with reprisals if he did not leave Pirojpur (south of the country). Mithu had published an article on the involvement of this fundamentalist party leader in massacres during the 1971 War of Independence.
On 10 October, henchmen of Bacchu Mollah, son of Ahsanul Haque Mollah, the new Post and Telecommunication Minister, ransacked the home of Jahurul Islam, correspondent with Dainik Jugantor in Daulatpur (Kushtia district, west of the country). The journalist was not at home, but his elder brother was beaten and taken to the residence of the BNP leader’s son by his assailants. They forced him to sign a letter in which he agreed that he would provide them information to help them capture his brother. Four days later, the minister’s son threatened journalists during a press conference, telling them not to blame him for this attack. On 15 October, the Home Minister ordered police to raid Bacchu Mollah’s residence, but they failed to arrest him. The same day, the Post and Telecommunication Minister complained to the Prime Minister about the raid when she came back from the holy city of Mecca. Khaleda Zia allegedly answered that he would be dismissed if he did not control his son’s behaviour. On 16 October, the minister’s son turned himself in to Dhaka police. He told police officers that he had not participated in the attack but that he was politically responsible because he wanted to get revenge for articles critical of his father. At the same time, the Daulatpur police announced that Jahurul Islam had withdrawn his complaint. Several people said that partisans of Bacchu Mollah threatened him with reprisals to make him change his mind. The journalist was also fired from Dainik Jugantor and feared for his life. People close to Bacchu Mollah would not forgive him for writing an article that led their "leader" to go to jail. On 5 November, M. A. Raquib, correspondent with the Dainik Janakantha, and Tariqul Haque Tariq, correspondent with the Dainik Prothom Alo in Kushtia (west of the country), received death threats by mail after reporting a case implicating Bacchu Mollah. BNP officers published a press release in which they ordered the press not to write about the son of the Minister. "Some journalists use their profession as business. We will get our revenge," the BNP leaders wrote.
On 10 October, the student branch of Jamat-e Islami threatened press correspondents at Rajshahi University, during a rally. "Be prepared, your time is over. Now our time has come. You have written a lot against us. Now drop your pens or otherwise you will suffer for your deeds," said Shafiqul Islam, leader of this group.
On 10 October, in Jamalpur district (north of the country), a terrorist group claiming to be BNP members ordered Lutfur Rahman, staff reporter with Muktakantha, and Shafiqul Islam, journalist with Dainik Manavzamin, to leave the area if they did not want to suffer serious reprisals. The two reporters had published articles about violence during the election campaign.
On 14 October, Shaukat Milton, correspondent with Dainik Janakantha in Barisal (south of the country), was threatened with death through a newspaper. Mahbubul Alam Mehdi, a local organised crime boss linked with the BNP, published a statement in a local newspaper accusing the journalist of being a liar. The organised crime boss criticised Shaukat Milton for writing an article, published on 12 October, about links between political leaders and local crime organisations. Following the protests of Barisal journalists’ organisations, the local newspaper expressed its regret. In recent years, Shaukat Milton has received many threats from former ruling party supporters.
On 15 October, the regional office of Prothom Alo in Chittagong (south-east of the country) received threats from a delinquent, Bidhan Barua, unhappy about the publication of articles on his "terrorist activities". The newspaper had stated that organised crime groups were protected by Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, BNP Member of Parliament for Chittagong and advisor to the Prime Minister. "You went too far, I’m going to slit your throat, watch out," said Bidhan Barua to a journalist.
On 16 October, Muzaffar Rahman, correspondent with the regional newspaper Dainik Janmabhumi in Tala near Satkhira (south-west of the country) received death threats from the local BNP president. While the journalist was in a meeting with the local Member of Parliament, the BNP leader threatened the journalist with an early death because of his articles critical to the party.
On 20 October, K. M. Reza, correspondent with Dainik Matribhumi in Putia (near Rajshahi, west of the country), was attacked while waiting at a bus stop in this town close to India. His assailants criticised him for his articles about their implication in cross-border smuggling. The journalist filed a complaint with the police. A few hours later, the assailants came to his house and threatened to kill him if he did not withdraw his complaint. They forced him to sign a blank piece of paper.
On 20 October, supporters of JCD manhandled and threatened Mohammad Muniruzzaman Munir, correspondent with Dainik Jugantor in Nalchity (south of the country) after the publication of an article entitled "Chattra Dal Strikes Nalchity College", which told about acts of violence committed by the movement in a school in the city.
On 20 October, organised crime boss Abul Shah, who claimed to be a BNP member, sent a threatening letter to Humayun Kabir Mithu, correspondent with Dainik Muktakantha in Daulatpur (near Kushtia, west of the country). "Your newspaper has written too much against our leader, and that is why we will kill you like a dog," said the letter.
On 21 October, Mamunur Rashid, correspondent with Dainik Janakantha in Dhaka University, was forced to leave the university after receiving threats from JCD activists, who ransacked and occupied his room. The JCD also asked Rashid, former general secretary of the Dhaka University Journalists’ Association, to write very "carefully" about them.
On 30 October, Rifat bin Tuha, correspondent with Dainik Janakantha in Narail (south-west of the country), received death threats from BNP activists. They blamed him for criticising their party. On the same day, BNP supporters attacked a newsstand. Hundreds of copies of Dainik Janakantha were burnt on the public square. Rifat bin Tuha and the newsstand owner filed a complaint and asked for police protection. But, as of 1 January 2002, nothing has been done.
Also on 30 October, activists of Islami Chattra Shibir, the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, threatened to kill Akil Poddhar, correspondent with Dainik Janakantha in Kushtia (west of the country), for publishing "anti-Islamic" news. The fundamentalists criticised the daily for its articles critical of Osama bin Laden.
On 31 December, Sakir Ahmed, journalist with the daily Ittefaq, received death threats by telephone. Shortly before this, he had published a series of articles about trafficking of luxury buses in the city.
Pressure and obstruction
On 12 January 2001, the Bangladesh National Museum, under the Ministry of Culture, tried to censor some pictures of "The War we Forgot", an international exhibit on the 1971 War of Independence organised by the non-governmental organisation Drik. According to authorities, some pictures showing bodies of pro-Pakistani militia members killed by independence fighters could have shocked minors. The organisers refused to remove the pictures and the exhibit was moved to a private location.
On 27 February, the official press agency BSS announced that the government had decided to investigate the involvement of the editor-in-chief of the Bengali service of the BBC in London, Mahmud Ali, in the 1975 coup against the father of independence, Shiekh Mujibur Rahman. The government announced this investigation because of confessions made by Mahmud Ali to the newspaper Dainik Janakantha concerning his presence in the offices of the national radio station on the day of the coup. In the following weeks, personalities close to the government called for the suspension of broadcasting of news bulletins from the BBC World Service on the country’s national radio station until Mahmud Ali was fired. The Minister said, "Mahmud Ali will not work neutrally (...) since his political affiliations have been revealed." On 1 March, the BBC expressed its confidence in Mahmud Ali and said that he had never been implicated in any official investigation about these events. Mahmud Ali, a former Pakistani army officer, had worked as a journalist with the magazines Bangladesh Today and Dhaka Courier. He joined the BBC in 1986. Following pressure from the Dhaka government, the BBC announced, in late March, that the chief of the radio station’s Asia-Pacific bureau was carrying out an investigation on Mahmud Ali’s past. On 11 April, the BBC decided to suspend Mahmud Ali. A spokesperson said that the Bangladeshi journalist was not being fired for his involvement in the coup d’état, but for having spoken in the name of the BBC during an interview to Janakantha.
On 19 February, a judge in Dhaka issued a an arrest warrant and ordered the seizure of possessions belonging to Kazi Shahid Ahmed, publisher of the daily Ajker Kagoj, and Anis Alamgir, a senior reporter with the same newspaper, following a complaint for "slander" filed by a lawyer. On 28 August 2000, the newspaper published an article entitled, "When lawyers were born, the devil said: my children are born". This article was considered insulting to lawyers. The journalists were released on bail and the procedure is progressing normally.
On 28 February, people in charge of the www.banglarights.com web site noticed that the site had been disconnected only 24 hours after its launch. All the telephone lines for Drik, the NGO hosting the web site, had been disconnected by the state-owned provider.
On 2 March, a group of partisans of the Jatiy party set fire to offices of the daily Ittefaq. This newspaper’s journalists had written articles that partisans of this conservative party considered "lies".
On 15 March, arrest warrants were issued for editors, the head of communication, the director and a journalist with the Daily Dinkal. These warrants were issued because the journalists did not go to court after a slander complaint was filed by Dr. Shafique, half-brother of Sheikh Hasina. The journalists were released on bail, and the procedure is progressing normally.
On 24 March, Member of Parliament Moulana Delwar Hossain Sayeedi filed a slander complaint against Atikullah Khan Masud, Toab Khan, Borhan Ahmed and Zulfiquer Ali Manik, respectively editors and reporter with the newspaper Dainik Janakantha. On 4 and 5 March, the newspaper had published an article on the "troubling" role of this Member of Parliament during the 1971 War of Independence.
On 3 May, a businessman and member of the Awami League in Dhaka, Shamsul Haq Mollah, filed a complaint for slander against the publisher, editor and correspondent in Comilla of the newspaper Dainik Janakantha. The newspaper accused him of collaborating with Pakistan during the 1971 War of Independence. In addition, he said that a journalist had asked for 40,000 taka (approximately 1,000 euros) to not publish this article.
On 4 May, a group of political activists ordered a news dealer in a suburb of Dhaka to stop selling the latest issue of the magazine Oporadh Barta, which contained an article on criminality in this quarter. When the news dealer refused, the activists hit him and stole his money.
On 6 May, police in Sreepur (north of the capital) issued an arrest warrant for Mahfuz Hassan Hannan, managing editor of the local newspaper Dainik Gonomukh, following a complaint by a politician with the Awami League. The managing editor and 32 other people, mostly members of the BNP, were accused of planning an attack against an Awami League office. The journalist said this was vengeance following the publication of articles revealing internecine conflicts within the Awami League. Several weeks earlier, the same police station had issued arrest warrants for Iqbal Hossain Kajal and Abdul Malek, two journalists who had implicated officials of the party in power.
On 7 May, the Prime Minister’s cabinet passed on to the Ministry of Justice a bill on the autonomy of public radio and television stations before presenting it to Parliament. In spite of candidate Sheikh Hasina’s electoral promises in 1996, this bill only called for a limited independence of the two governmental media. The radio station Bangladesh Betar and the television station Bangladesh Television would not
be privatised but would become more autonomous. Ramendu Majumber, an artist who participated in the Commission in charge of making recommendations to the government on this issue in 1996, said he was disappointed at the limited conditions of these bills. The Ministry of Information would maintain control over the two management organs and the government could fire the president of these organs without justification.
On 17 May, authorities of the city of Chittagong filed a complaint against four journalists of the local newspaper Azadi for publishing "false, unfounded and fabricated" information about Chaktai Khal, Mayor of the city. This complaint, recorded by Magistrate Mohammad Shafiqul Islam, concerned A. Malek, managing editor, Mohammad Khaled, publisher, Sadhan Kumar Dhar, news director, and Helaluddin Chowdhurry, reporter.
On 12 June, Member of Parliament Joynal Hazari made a speech against the press in Parliament. "Newspapers deliberately publish false information to ruin my political career (...) Newspapers feel that it is a good thing to write about Joynal Hazari. They write garbage about me only so they can sell more," he said. He also denounced the solidarity campaign in favour of journalist Tipu Sultan, seriously wounded in January by his henchmen.
On 16 June, the government ordered GrameenPhone, the country’s largest mobile phone operator with 300,000 subscribers, to stop sending news stories to mobile phones. For less than one year, subscribers had had 24-hour-a-day access, using the "222" service, to news briefs in English and Bengali from the dailies Prothom Alo and Daily Star. The authorities justified this ban by saying that Prothom Alo did not have permission to broadcast news to mobile phones. This decision followed some critical articles published in these newspapers, especially against the Information Minister. For example, on 3 June, Motiur Rahman, editor of Prothom Alo, had accused the minister of "living in lies". The Minister allegedly tried to pressure the newspaper to force
it to support the government. On 6 September, the interim government again authorised mobile phone operators to provide news to mobile phones. The following day, Grameen Phone began providing news from the private newspapers Prothom Alo and Daily Star in English and Bengali.
On 22 June, the offices of the daily Dainik Juger Alo were victim of a bombing attempt in Rangpur (north of the country). Police defused the bomb. Dainik Juger Alo, published in Rangpur, is a newspaper very critical of the government, and its owner is a former BNP member of parliament. The bomb was discovered shortly after the opposition leader Khaleda Zia, arrived in Rangpur for a series of rallies.
On 22 June, officials of the student wing of the Awami League threatened dealers of the Dainik Dinkal, organ of the BNP, and the Dainik Inqilab, a pro-Islamist daily, with "dire consequences". These government supporters criticised the two newspapers for their coverage of the bomb attack of 16 June at the Awami League office in Naryanganj, which killed 22 and injured more than 100 people.
On the night of 23 August, unknown people threw homemade bombs at offices of the satellite television channel ATN Bangla, in Dhaka. Several minutes earlier, an anonymous phone call was made warning the station. The callers had asked the channel, which is broadcast from Bangkok, to broadcast BNP communiqués. The previous week, ATN Bangla had broadcast a BNP commercial. Officials of this television channel pointed out that the opposition party paid for this commercial to be broadcast.
On 27 September, the High Court ordered ETV, the country’s only private television channel, to stop broadcasting as of 4 October because it had not obtained its broadcasting licence correctly. This decision followed a complaint from people close to the BNP who criticised this very popular channel for being favourable to the Awami League. ETV management appealed and the High Court’s decision was stayed.
On 6 October, JCD activists occupied the offices of Khaliakor Press Club. They hung a sign: "City branch of the JCD". The Press Club president filed a complaint, and the journalists protested to the local BNP leader, especially because the chief of the group was the son of the BNP vice-president. Neither the BNP nor the authorities took any action. But later, the activists threatened to kill three journalists who were in charge of the press club.
On the night of 13 October, a group of delinquents, claiming they were linked to the party in power, attempted to take possession of the Gazipur Press Club (north of the capital). They returned on the night of 15 October. They broke down the door and vandalised facilities and equipment. Journalists were only able to take back control of the club after a police officer came to the location.
In October, the authorities banned the October issue of the Bengali magazine Desh, published in India, and censored two pages of Sannanda, a women’s magazine also published in India. The authorities criticised Desh for publishing a story by Samaresh Majumder, an Indian writer, about insurgents in the Indian state of Tripura. Some rebels supposedly took refuge in Bangladesh. Regarding Sannanda, the government censored poems that contained descriptions of different religious sculptures that could "hurt the feelings of readers".
On 20 October, delinquents, claiming they were linked to the party in power, burst into the offices of the newspaper Dainik Deshhitoishi in Jessore (south-west of the country). The assailants vandalised equipment and stole a vehicle belonging to the newspaper.
On 20 October, the staff of the state television channel BTV refused to broadcast an investigative programme, "Poriprekkhit", presented by journalist Syed Borhan Kabir, known for his criticism of fundamentalist movements.
On 20 October, a group of young armed assailants, claiming they were members of the BNP, attacked the offices of the local newspaper Dainik Shitalakkhya in Narayanganj (port of Dhaka). They destroyed equipment and threatened the journalists with reprisals if they did not hand over their money. On 25 October, police arrested two suspects with prior records of criminal and political activities.
On 20 November, a dozen plainclothes policemen without a warrant raided the office of the newspaper Dainik Al Ameen. After threatening the guard, policemen searched the building for illegal firearms. According to several witnesses, they left after failing to find anything. Dainik Al Ameen is owned by Moqbul Hossain, a former Awami League Member of Parliament, accused of corruption by the government.
On 22 November, the government suspended the sale of advertising space in the private newspaper Dainik Janakantha. This decision probably followed the publication of articles on violence against Hindu minorities and activists of the Awami League, blamed on members of the party in power. In an editorial published on the front page of this newspaper, the staff said that this decision came from the highest level of government and not from the Department of Film and Publications who "only followed orders".
On the night of 4 December, a group of individuals threw homemade bombs at the home of Shafik Rehman, editor of the weekly Jai Jai Din, in the Eskaton Garden quarter of Dhaka. According to Rehman’s family, a bomb exploded against the wall of the house and two others blew up on the roof. No one was wounded in the attack.