Reporters Without Borders today called for the immediate release of photographer Shafiqul Islam Shafiq of the Focus Bangla photo news agency, who has reportedly been tortured since his arrest by an elite home affairs ministry unit on 28 October in Shikdari Bazar, in the northwestern Rajshahi region, on unfounded allegations of links with extremist movements.
Following his arrest by plain-clothes members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), he was taken handcuffed and hooded to a camp at Atrai, where he was interrogated and mistreated, one of his brothers said. Thereafter he was taken to a police station and charged under article 54 of the criminal code.
When taken before a judge, he said he was tortured for eight hours, above all by means of electric shocks. RAB personnel told him four other journalists were on a list of people to be interrogated, he said. The authorities are apparently accusing him of being in contact with Islamist extremists. He was already arrested and mistreated by the RAB last year.
Reporters Without Borders today also urged the security forces and activists of various political parties including the Awami League to respect the media when they are covering demonstrations.
A total of 15 media personnel were injured by police or demonstrators during protests on 28 October in Dhaka, Rajshahi and Mohonganj. The eight injured in Dhaka included Daily Shamokal veteran reporter Shafique Kajol, who was badly beaten by members of the Awami League’s youth wing. He is still in hospital. Those injured in the provinces include Hafizur Rahman Chayan of the Daily Shamokal, who was beaten by opposition activists in Mohonganj.
“It is disgraceful that 15 journalists were physically attacked in a space of less than 24 hours while trying to inform the public about events that are crucial for the country’s political future,” Reporters Without Borders added.