Twenty-five journalists were injured yesterday when members of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) attacked a demonstration in the western city of Kushtia by journalists protesting against the violence and threats many of them have received there, Reporters Without Borders said today.
“We call on BNP activists to immediately refrain from further acts of violence against journalists and we call on the party’s leaders to rein in their supporters,” the press freedom organisation said. “The police must also deploy more resources to protect journalists in future,” the organisation added.
The BNP activists threw bricks, sticks and chairs at the 150 journalists who staged yesterday’s demonstration in support of press freedom. Those who were seriously injured included Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, the editor of the Bangladesh Observer daily and outgoing president of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists, Saiful Islam Talukder, the correspondent of the Daily Amader Shomoy, and Mizanur Rahman Bheza, the editor of the Daily Kushtia, who was taken to Kushtia general hospital.
The demonstration was held to support the return to Kushtia of three journalists - Hasan Jahid, the correspondent of the Daily Manabzamin, Munshi Tariqul Islam, the correspondent of Daily Shamokal, and Al Mamun Sagor, the correspondent of the Daily Jugantor - who fled the city on 10 May after being threatened by BNP parliamentarian Shahidul Islam (photo). The three returned to Dhaka after yesterday’s violence.
The parliamentarian had also brought legal actions against them, claiming they tried to extort 50,000 takas (575 euros) from him in return for promises not to criticise him in their reports. They deny these allegations and say they were targeted for writing about local political corruption and Shahidul Islam’s loss of popularity in Kushtia.
In response to a request from the three, Reporters Without Borders wrote to the parliamentarian last week asking him to give them guarantees so that they could return to Kushtia without fearing for their safety.
Activists meanwhile stormed into the premises of the daily Andonoler Bazar this morning, attacking the distribution manager and grabbing printing plates, thereby preventing the printing of today’s issue. Andonoler Bazar’s editor, Mithu Chowdhury, was one of the organisers of yesterday’s demonstration.