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Bangladesh 22 September 2005

Journalists targeted after parliamentarian incited violence against them

MP withdraws complaints against journalists

Parliamentary representative Shahidul Islam Master of the southern city of Jhenidah announced at a meeting of the Jhenidah press club that he was withdrawing the complaints he had brought against 17 journalists.


Journalists targeted after parliamentarian incited violence against them

Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage at assaults on journalists after a Member of Parliament from the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Shahidul Alam Talukder, made a hate-filled speech against the press in which he incited violence against them.

Members of the BNP seized and viciously beat Anwar Hossain, journalist on daily newspaper Dainik Khobor Patra over a two-hour period on 17 September 2005. Four days later, a reporter on Channel I television was clubbed by a police officer while covering a demonstration.

"Some unscrupulous militants in the ruling party are abusing their political position in continuing to use violence to intimidate the independent press,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“It is essential for the authorities to react by carrying out a serious investigation into the activities of some members or protégés of the BNP.”

Member of Parliament Shahidul Alam Talukder verbally threatened journalists at a BNP meeting in Baufal, in the south of the country on 31 August 2005. His speech was peppered with insults and incitement to violence, in particular towards correspondents of national media in his constituency.

Talukder is already on Reporters Without Borders’ black list, ‘Enemies of press freedom’. On 9 August he attacked and seriously injured journalist Manjur Morshed, of the daily Ajker Kagoj, because he wrote an article implicating him in a corruption case.

Dainik Khobor Patra journalist Anwar Hossain had to be rescued by colleagues after BNP activists abducted and viciously beat him for two hours in Jamalpur, near Dhaka on 17 September after his paper carried an article he had written on a corruption case. A local BNP official, who was interviewed by the press, acknowledged the facts and apologised. The two sides then got together to agree on an amicable way to bring the matter to a close.

Channel I reporter Mahbub Matin was clubbed by a police officer while covering a demonstration by opposition party women in the capital on 21 September and suffered a knee injury. He told Reporters Without Borders that the police officer beat him even though he clearly identified himself as a journalist.

Reporters Without Borders also expressed concern about an escalation in abusive complaints made against journalists by leaders of the ruling party. MP Shahidul Islam Master in Jhenidah, near Jessore, laid a complaint at the beginning of September against the correspondents and managing editors of 17 dailies, including Janakantha. He said the newspapers had “hurt his feelings”.

In the same Jhenidah region, M. Mahfuz, correspondent for the regional newspaper Dainik Gramer Kagoj, suffered a brutal attack on 11 September, at the hands of members of a local criminal gang. He was left with a broken right hand and needed 17 stitches to a head wound. He is currently in hospital in Kushtia after an operation to try to restore the use of his hand. M. Mahfuz wrote an article on 7 September about the criminal activities of the “Janajuddhya” group, headed by a man known as Kader. The journalist told Reporters Without Borders that he was afraid to return to the town for fear of reprisals.

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