Reporters Without Borders voiced deep concern today about a dramatic deterioration in the security situation in Bangladesh and its impact on the press after three journalists were injured in an Islamist bombing, two reporters were beaten by police, a newspaper correspondent was threatened by the head of a madrassa and a minister’s supporters made a bonfire of copies of an independent daily, all in the past 10 days.
“Despite government assurances that security is improving, the increase in attacks and bombings is exposing the press and public to new risks,” the press freedom organisation said. “This is partly a result of the attitude of the current government which, instead of combating these extremist excesses, has preferred to crack down on the journalists and human rights activists who issued warnings about this new threat.”
Starting with the most recent, the incidents of the past 10 days are as follows:
A member of the Islamist movement Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh set off a bomb outside a public building in Gazipur, north of Dhaka, on 1 December, killing at least one person and injuring about 30 others, including three journalists who were covering a demonstration. The three reporters were Nazrul Islam Badami, the correspondent of the daily The New Nation, who was very badly hurt, and Belal Hossain of the BSS news agency and Aminul Islam of the local newspaper Ajker Janata, who also had to be hospitalised.
A group of supporters of housing minister Alamgir Kabir made a bonfire with dozens of copies of the daily newspaper Janakantha on 28 November after it ran a story about a physical attack by Kabir on one of the newspaper’s reporters.
The principal of a madrassa in the southern town of Lohagora made death threats on 27 November against Maruf Samdani, the local correspondent of the national daily Prothom Alo, after the newspaper ran a story about alleged embezzlement by the principal.
Channel I television reporter Mahbub Matin was beaten by police while covering a demonstration by the opposition Awami League on 21 November and had to spend the next six days in hospital, where plain-clothes police kept him under close surveillance. Matin’s cameraman, Jahid Hasan, was also injured during the demonstration. Matin told journalists he thought the attitude of the police was “strange.” He also questioned the seriousness of the enquiry into his beating, since the policemen who hit him were the ones in charge of the investigation.