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Bangladesh 7 September 2006

Newspaper reporter beaten at behest of ruling party parliamentarian

Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today at the beating received by local reporter Mizanur Rahman Kawser on the orders of Manjurul Ahsan Munshi, a parliamentary representative for the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), in the southeastern city of Comilla on 3 September. Kawser is also being harassed at Munshi’s behest and has been held for several days on a theft charge. He was freed on bail on 5 September.

“This repeated use of physical violence and judicial harassment is coming at a moment of tension between the government and opposition,” the press freedom organisation said. “Attacks on journalists are rarely condemned by the authorities or ruling party officials. This allows a climate of impunity that encourages more violence. We call for Kawser’s protection and for Munshi and his thugs to be punished.”

The local correspondent for the Amar Desh daily newspaper, Kawser was beaten for nearly an hour on 3 September in Munshi’s presence before being handed over to the police. This took place after he accompanied a group of people who went to Munshi’s home in Comilla to submit to him a written demand for electricity in their locality.

Munshi subsequently ordered his supporters to ransack Kawser’s home. Kawser appeared in court on the theft charge on 5 September. His brother, Atiqur Rahman Bashar, who is the correspondent of the Prothom Alo daily and president of the press club of Debidwar (a district of Comilla), has also been formally accused by Munshi of extortion.

Munshi is well-known for his attacks on the media. Last February, for example, he prevented a meeting on the subject of press freedom from being held in Debidwar. Several journalists have been insulted and driven out of the region.

Meanwhile, in the southeastern city of Porshuram, Weekly Zohur correspondent Jahanara Ferdous is constantly being threatened and accused of drug trafficking and prostitution by Kazi Mohamed Jahir Uddin Arif, the head of the local BNP student wing. Reporters Without Borders is concerned for her safety and calls on the police, who have not given her any protection, to investigate Arif’s activities.

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