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Bangladesh 18 February 2004

Local newspaper editor arrested under special powers act
At least 26 journalists attacked or threatened since BBC stringer’s murder in January

Journalist escaped a murder attempt

Mahbubur Rahman Dulu, correspondent in southern Fakirhat for the Khulna-based daily Janmabhumi narrowly escaped a murder attempt on the evening of 20 February. The journalist was standing close to a grocer’s store in the town market place when a group of seven to eight people opened fire in his direction. The grocer was killed by a stray bullet and a passer-by was injured. Dulu managed to escape from his assailants.


Two press freedom organisations today called on Bangladesh’s interior minister and other authorities to step in and obtain the release of a journalist who was arrested without a warrant in the southeastern town of Cox’s Bazar on 14 February as a result of pressure by a local leader of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), who objected to his critical articles.

Reporters Without Borders and the Bangladesh Centre for Development, Journalism and Communication (BCDJC) also protested against the misuse of special powers act under the Speedy Trial Act to arrest the journalist, Abdul Mahbud Mahu of the local daily Ajker Desh Bidesh, who was just exercising his right to inform.

Adopted in 2002, this emergency law allows the police to hold a suspect until tried. Journalists in Cox’s Bazar have met with the local authorities, including the police chief, to demand Mahu’s release.

Mahu’s arrest occurred against a backdrop of violence and threats against journalists. Reporters Without Borders and the BCDJC have registered 26 cases of death threats and physical attacks against journalists since the 15 January murder of BBC World Service stringer Manik Saha.

The two press freedom organisations criticised the government and its supporters for continuing to endanger the lives of dozens of journalists and restrict their right to report the news. They also deplored the government’s failure to react to Saha’s death by adopting energetic measures aimed at halting the violence.

An extreme-left armed group, Purba Bangla Sarbahara, issued letters on 16 February threatening to kill six journalists in the northern town of Gaibandha. The letters gave them 30 days to stop "conspiring" against the group, failing which they would be "killed between 3 p.m. an! d 5 p.m. by activists already infiltrated into the town." The journalists have asked the police for protection.

Members of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD), the student wing of the ruling BNP, beat up Mokarram Hossain Suvo, the correspondent of the daily Prothom Alo at Dhaka university, on 12 February when he was holding a discussion with other journalists about a column by his editor criticising the BNP’s failure to control the JCD.

Masadur Rahman, a civil servant in the eastern district of Bakshiganj, threatened to kill three journalists in the town of Jamalpur on 9 February after they wrote about his alleged involvement in corruption cases.

Iqbal Hasan, the correspondent of the daily Janakantha in the northern town of Natore, was attacked outside his home on 7 February by 20 armed BNP members, who were forced to flee when neighbours intervened. Hasan had just written about the torching of the homes of 16 supporters of the opposition Awami League by members of Jatiyatabadi Jubo Dal, the BNP’s youth wing.

Eleven members of the press club in the western town of Rajshahi were threatened with death in a letter on 6 February from the Purbo Banglar Communist Party (PBCP), which accused them of lying about the PBCP and of being linked with the "class enemies." The letter added: "Our party’s guerrillas have already killed the journalist Manik Saha and will kill you one by one in the coming months.’ The press club has been put under a police watch.

As freelance journalist Zahirul Huq Makhan going home on 6 February in Dhaka, he was intercepted on a street by men who told him to stop writing if he did not want to lose his life.

M.A. Awal, the editor of a local weekly based outside Dhaka, Narsinghdir Kagoj, received a death threat by telephone on 6 February after publishing an article about a real estate company’s illegal activities.

Prabir Shikder, the daily Janakantha’s staff reporter in the western town of Faridpur, was chased by a car and three motorcycles on 3 February. He escaped his pursuers by mingling with a crowd of Muslim worshippers and then obtaining help from the police. He lost a leg in 2001 as a result of an attack prompted by his reports about an influential businessman.

News photographer Shahinur Rahman Bimu of the daily newspaper Jugantor was hit on 24 January in Pakulla (in the northern district of Sonatola) by Jatiyatabadi Jubo Dal activists as he was taking a picture of a building that was constructed illegally. A lawyer was also beaten when he tried to defend Bimu.




In this country
10 October - Bangladesh
Government challenged over torture of editor in Sylhet
19 September - Bangladesh
Cartoonist arrested over harmless play on name Mohammed
7 September - Bangladesh
Condemnation of closure of CBS News
29 August - Bangladeh
Government urged to lift censorship and guarantee journalists’ safety
12 May - Bangladesh
Authorities free journalist and human rights activist Tasneem Khalil

in the annual report
Bangladesh - Annual report 2008
Bangladesh - Annual report 2007
Bangladesh - Annual report 2006

reports
4 May 2009 - Nepal
Mission report : A call to end violence and impunity
2 April 2009 - Pakistan
Fact-finding visit by Reporters Without Borders to Swat “valley of fear”
16 March 2009 - Afghanistan
Report of fact-finding mission : Press freedom in free-fall in run-up to presidential election
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