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Bangladesh 18 January 2002

Dainik Janakantha newspaper harassed by authorities

n a letter sent to the Information Minister, Dr. Abdul Moyeen Khan, Reporters without Borders (RSF - Reporters sans frontières) expressed its concern over pressures wielded by the government against the Dainik Janakantha newspaper. "Withdrawing government advertising, shutting down the print facility’s electricity, jailing one of the newspaper’s staff members, and failing to punish attacks against journalists working for this independent paper constitute proof that the government is harassing the Dainik Janakantha," stated Robert Ménard, RSF’s General Secretary. The organization requested the Minister to order a halt to these repeated attacks against the paper. In addition, Reporters sans frontières again demanded the release of Shahriar Kabir, one of Dainik Janakantha’s regular contributors, who has been in prison since November 22, 2001, after being accused of "sedition." image 200 x 60 (JPEG)

The Dainik Janakantha newspaper has been particularly concerned by the violent acts against the press that have occurred in the country. In fact, according to RSF statistics, in 2001, at least eight of the daily’s journalists were assaulted, and twelve threatened.

Based on information gathered by RSF, on January 16, 2002, the company supplying Dhaka with electricity (DESA) cut off power to Dainik Janakantha’s printing facility in Dhaka. According to one DESA employee, the order to cut the power "came from the top." For its part, the daily affirms that it was never warned of the power shutdown, and had paid its latest bills. Despite the power outage, the Dainik Janakantha copy was printed as usual, thanks to its backup generators. Its management denounced yet another sanction on the part of authorities against this paper that has been criticizing governmental policy under the leadership of Begum Khaleda Zia.

The government had already stopped buying advertising space in the Dainik Janakantha on November 22, 2001. This decision followed the publication of articles on the harsh abuse allegedly perpetrated by members of the ruling party against Hindu minorities and Awami League militants. In an editorial published on the daily’s front page, the editorial staff affirmed that this decision came from the highest level of government, and not from the Film and Publications Department, which "simply carries out orders."

image 206 x 117 (JPEG)

Furthermore, in early January, the government modified its press copy distribution to Bangladesh embassies worldwide. The quantity of copies of the newspapers Dainik Janakantha, Dainik Prothom Alo, Dainik Jugantor, and Dainik Sangbad dispatched by the Minister of Foreign Affairs was considerably reduced. These four publications are known to be critical of the ruling coalition.

On January 14, Kabir Uddin Hannu, an elected official from a village in southern Bangladesh affiliated with the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party, together with his henchmen, violently struck Shawkat Milton, a Dainik Janakantha staff correspondent in Barisal. On the morning of the assault, the journalist-who is also a freedom of the press militant-had written an article for the daily implicating Kabir Uddin Hannu in the fraudulent takeover of a local bank. Two reporters were also assaulted in the incident.

Several days earlier, on January 8, Reazzudin Jami, a Dainik Janakantha correspondent in Brahmanbaria (in eastern Bangladesh), was assaulted by armed activist members of the BNP’s youth movement. These individuals broke into the offices of the local daily newspaper Dainik Brahmanbaria where Reazzudin Jami was working, vandalized his office, assaulted the journalist, and attempted to abduct him. In response to the protests of some of the newspapers’ employees, the militants eventually left the premises, threatening the journalist with reprisals if he were to fail to do his work "objectively." The activists resented the publication of a series of articles about their movement. Reazzudin Jami filed a complaint with the Brahmanbaria police department.

Finally, the investigation into the assassination attempt against Probir Shikder, a Dainik Janakantha correspondent in Faridpur (west of Dhaka), has remained unresolved, despite the assurances of government authorities. The journalist, who lost a leg as a result of the attack, accused a businessman, Musa Bin Shamser, of having financed his assassination. A delinquent arrested by police admitted that he had been hired to assassinate Probir Shikder by Musa Bin Shamser’s brother, and one of the latter’s associates. Despite these confessions, the businessman was never interrogated. On January 14, 2002, Faridpur judges ordered the police to reopen the investigation after a complaint was filed by Probir Shikder, who contested the conclusions of the first inquiry.


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