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Bangladesh 6 March 2006

A murder attempt and 11 journalists beaten

A journalist survived a murder attempt when his university bedroom was torched in Savarnear, central Bangladesh, while two days later 11 journalists were beaten up at a press conference by members of the ruling party youth movement, in Sharishabari in the north-west.

Reporters Without Borders urged the authorities, particularly the interior ministry, to act with the same determination against political militants who harass journalists as they have done recently against Islamist terrorism.

“The decisive success of the security forces in the battle against Islamist terror, with the recent arrests of Siddiqul Islam and Sheikh Abdur Rahman, are excellent news for Bangladesh and for journalists in particular, it said. “At least 60 of them received death threats in 2005 from radical Islamist groups.”

“But the violence experienced by the press on a daily basis, particularly in the districts, should not be forgotten,” it said.

Overnight on 1st March 2006, a group of unidentified people set fire to the bedroom of Nur Siddique, student and correspondent for the daily Prothom Alo, at the Jahangirnagar University near Dhaka. They locked the door to prevent him escaping, but he was woken by the smoke and neighbours managed to rescue him.

“They attacked me because they are unhappy about my work,” he told Reporters Without Borders. His view was supported by the chairman of the Jahangirnagar University Journalists’ Association (JUJA). “I don’t think this attack was motivated by personal conflict,” he said.

The journalist and his colleagues suspect some supporters of the ruling BNP within the university to have been behind the arson attack. Most of Siddique’s articles written last month were about the student branch of the BNP.

Two other correspondents at the university were attacked by people with links to the ruling party during 2005. Siddique laid a complaint with the university’s vice-chancellor, which was sent to the police.

On 3rd march, members of the BNP youth wing, Jubodal, launched an attack on the Sharishabari press club, beating up militants of the opposition Awami League and journalists. At least 25 people, including 11 reporters, were beaten with blunt objects. The assailants also vandalised furniture and four motorbikes.

Minister and BNP deputy for the constituency, Muhammad Anowarul Kabir Talukder condemned the violence, following protests from journalists, but some witnesses said his younger brother, Faridul Kabir Talukder Shamim, took part in the attack.

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