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Bangladesh 7 August 2002

Drug traffickers target provincial newspaper Andoloner Bazar, journalist found dead

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) and the Bangladesh Centre for Development, Journalism and Communication (BCDJC) today voiced their utmost concern about an attack on the printing press used by Andoloner Bazar and three other provincial daily newspapers in Kushtia and the failure of the authorities to respond adequately to earlier attacks on journalists by presumed drug traffickers.

"Several journalists had already been attacked by drug traffickers without any effective response from the authorities", Reporters Without Border secretary-general Robert Ménard and BCDJC president Nayeemul Islam Khan said in a joint letter to Home Minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury. "Such laxity served only to encourage the feeling of impunity of those behind these attacks, with the result that the latest attack has prevented four newspapers from being published", the letter said.

The Home Minister was urged to intervene with the police authorities in Kushtia (south-western Bangladesh) to ensure that the security of journalists is guaranteed, and that an investigation is carried out into the drug trafficking sector with the aim of identifying those responsible for the attacks.

The latest attack was preceded by a threat to Andoloner Bazar’s editor, Manzur Ahsan Elahi, who was warned that there would be reprisals during the night of 2 August if he went ahead with the publication of the newspaper. It followed the publication of an article on the growing power of a Kushtia drug trafficker. The editor contacted the police who disregarded his emergency call.

At nightfall, armed men went to the newspaper’s office, padlocked the entrance, and then forced their way into the Quality Printing Press, which prints Andoloner Bazar and three other newspapers, Bajropath, Ajker Alo and Bangladesh Barta. Printing plates were damaged and workers were threatened with death if they continued printing. As a result, none of the four newspapers was able to appear in the morning next day.  Anti-riot police were deployed outside the printing press and the offices of the newspapers the next day, but employees have said they nonetheless fear further reprisals.

Previously, Dainik Manabzamin’s correspondent in Kushtia, Nazmul Imam, was attacked on 28 May by thugs using sticks and knives who cut off his right thumb. Imam told Reporters Without Borders he believed he had been attacked because of his articles on drug trafficking.

Reporters Without Borders and the BCDJC also asked the Interior Minister to ensure that there is a full investigation into the death of journalist Syed Farroque Ahmed, 50, whose mutilated body was found by police on 3 August, more than two months after he disappeared. So far, the police have no leads as to the circumstances of his death. Editor of the local publication Pubali Barta in Srimangal (south-eastern Bangladesh), Ahmed was not known to have any enemies, according to those close to him. Reporters Without Borders and the BCDJC have no information that would suggest that he was killed because of his journalistic activities.

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