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Bangladesh 6 February 2002

Minister for Energy Orders Arrest of Journalist : Four other reporters recently threatened or assaulted by members of the BNP

In a letter addressed to the Minister for Information, Doctor Abdul Moyeen Khan, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières - RSF) protested against the arrest of journalist Aminul Islam Chowdhury. "The behavior of the Minister for Energy, who apparently intervened to have the journalist arrested, is not worthy of a democratic government", stated Robert Ménard, Secretary-General of RSF. The organization asked the Minister to approach his colleagues from the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Justice so that the journalist can be released on bail as quickly as possible. RSF also requested once more that charges still held against journalist and human rights activist Shahriar Kabir, accused of "sedition", be dropped.

According to information received by RSF, Aminul Islam Chowdhury, a reporter for the daily Dainik Ittefaq in Sirajganj (in the north of the country), was arrested by the police on January 30, 2002 at his home. Police burst into his home in the middle of the night with an arrest warrant, accusing the journalist of not having paid his electricity bill. Although he protested and showed the receipts for his payments to the police, Aminul Islam Chowdhury was taken to the police station at Sirajganj, where he remained in detention overnight. On January 31, the journalist appeared before the court at Pabna, and his lawyers requested his release on bail. This request was rejected the following day. Last September, during the election campaign, the daily Ittefaq published articles that displeased Iqbal Hassan Mahmud, the BNP candidate for the constituency, who has since become Minister for Energy. Chowdhury is a veteran of the 1971 War of Independence, and the local head of the Committee for the Removal of Collaborators and War Criminals, of which journalist Shahriar Kabir is Chairman.

Reporters Sans Frontières also called the Minister’s attention to recent attacks and threats to journalists carried out by activists and leaders of the BNP.

On January 1, 2002, Deep Azad, office manager for the daily Dainik Jugantor in Khulna (southeast of the country), received death threats from BNP activists. A Minister condemned these threats and confirmed that the people concerned were "criminals" and not BNP activists.

On January 5, Masum Sharif, journalist for the daily Dainik Shahnama, was attacked in Barisal (south of the country) by Juba Dal (BNP youth) activists. As the journalist was covering a brawl between two groups of young people, involving members of Juba Dal in particular, he was assaulted by one of the brothers of the leader of the party, who, with the help of another man, pushed him aside and violently attacked him.

On January 8, Tapan Basu, correspondent in Agailjhara (close to Barisal) for the daily Dainik Ajker Kagoj, received death threats from armed BNP activists. Minhaj Fakir, a member of the youth wing of the party, was furious at the publication of an article about him, and ordered a manhunt for the journalist in order to "teach him a lesson". Since then, Tapan Basu has feared for his life, and remains shut up inside his home.

On January 26, Sushanta Kanu, correspondent for the newspaper Dainik Prothom Alo in Jamalpur (north of Bangladesh), received death threats from Mahbubur Rahman Ansari, a local BNP leader. At a meeting of the Jamalpur administrative authorities, Anwaruk Kabir Talukder, Deputy Finance Minister, implied that local journalists were involved in corruption. Sushanta Kanu, chairman of the town’s press club, was indignant at the Deputy Minister’s insinuations concerning his colleagues. At the end of the meeting, BNP leaders shouted at the journalist, saying he would "pay with his life" for having insulted the Deputy Minister. Following these threats, the Jamalpur press club demanded excuses from Mahbubur Rahman Ansari. The politician’s response was to reiterate his death threats, reminding the journalist, who is a Hindu, that he might also become a victim of religion-related violence (dozens of Hindus have been attacked by members of the Muslim majority in Bangladesh). Sushanta Kanu has also received dozens of death threats on his mobile phone. The deputy chief of police for Jamalpur refused to accept the journalist’s complaint against the BNP official.




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