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Bangladesh July 7, 2005
H.E. Iajuddin Ahmed
People’s Republic of Bangladesh
Fax: (011.8802) 86-63-00
H.E. Khaleda Zia
People’s Republic of Bangladesh
Fax: (011.8802) 81-32-43/ 44
It is horrifying to the members of the Overseas Press Club of America (OPC) to receive, month after month, reports of violence against journalists in Bangladesh . Our non-partisan organization has defended freedom of the press for journalists and media around the world for more than 60 years.
According to the South Asia Press Freedom Report, “Courage and Censorship,” issued by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) on May 3, 2005, Bangladesh is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists. In the past twelve months, the IFJ reported that more than 400 journalists have received death threats, 320 were tortured and four were murdered. The IFJ also noted that, in Bangladesh , “On average there was one death threat and incident of torture every day.”
Since the report was issued, Golam Mafuz , editor of the Comilla Muktakantha daily newspaper, was stabbed to death on May 31, bringing Bangladesh ‘s total to five journalists murdered in the past 12 months in retaliation for their work. In addition to Mafuz’s murder, the incidence of violence against journalists has continued since the IFJ report was issued. And, we note, the source of that violence was too often police and security forces. For example, on May 28, police barred Arifur Rahman , a staff journalist with the national daily, Prothhom Alo , from entering the Narsingdi office of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Rahman was in Narsingdi to cover the parliamentary elections. When Rahman asked why he was being denied entry, he was beaten by several police officers. Reportedly, the policemen shouted that “journalists’ pens could run dry but the police would always be able to use their batons.”
On May 27, seven press photographers, wearing press cards that publicly identified them as journalists and covering student riots near Dhaka University , were attacked by police who beat them with batons. The seven photographers were Wahid Hassan Raja of the daily, Bhorer Kagoj , Nayeem Parvez of the daily, Amar Desh , Shamim Mansur of the daily, Jugantor , Kajol Hazra of the daily , Samakal , Julhas of the daily, The Independent , Tarikul Islam Pintu of the TV station, ATN Bangla — and Abdur Rab of Channel I television.
Journalists were also attacked in retaliation for their coverage of criminal activities: Manunur Rashid Rabi of the Daily Nayadiganto , was seriously injured on May 26 when he was beaten about the head by a criminal gang. Reportedly, the attack was in response to a report that he wrote about drug trafficking.
One particularly horrifying case is the attack on GM Shahid , editor of the weekly, Aparadh Barta, and correspondent for the daily, Dainik Khobor Patra on May 21. Shahid was returning home in the evening when he was jumped by three men who gagged him and force-marched him to a nearby cemetery. There he was beaten by a hammer and then his captors tried to bury him alive. He managed to fight back and free his mouth so that he could shout out, which scared his assailants away. Three hours later, local residents finally came to his aid and took him to a doctor.
On May 17, Syed Monjur Morshed , editor and publisher of the English language bi-monthly, The Horizon, was attacked by four men who rushed at him and stabbed him in the abdomen. According to Reporters Without Borders (RWB), security forces at the scene failed to intervene during the attack. It is a sad footnote to this story that Morshed decided not to report the attack to police since it seemed pointless.
Waliur Rahman Raju , a correspondent for the Dainik Bogra daily newspaper, was attacked twice and robbed by criminals in early May — apparently in connection with his reports about local prostitution. Shamsuzzaman Bachchu , editor of the local weekly, Jugo Darpan, and president of the local press club, was beaten on May 7 in Bhairab by three enraged drug dealers who accused him of “meddling in their affairs.”
Threats also continue. Abu Sayeed Ahmah , deputy editor of the daily, Ajker Protibha , received a telephone threat on May 15 saying that his newspaper would be bombed in reprisal for a report the paper carried criticizing a university administration. In another case, Sumit Kumar Dutta of the daily, Dainik Ittefaq, received death threats after he reported on a local criminal’s embezzlement activities. The same criminal threatened other journalists if they wrote about his activities.
On May 10, Gauranga Nandi of Dainik Janakantha received a telephone threat from Shirajul Haque Nannu, private secretary to Ashraf Hossain, one of the leaders of the BNP. Nannu demanded an explanation for a recent story about an argument between two politicians. When Nandi refused to explain, Nannu threatened to teach him a “good lesson,” adding, “We can blow you up at any time.”
We heartily concur with the sentiments expressed by UNESCO’s Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura in his condemnation of Golam Mafuz’s murder and his comment that “Reports of increasing violence and intimidation against journalists in Bangladesh are a cause of grave concern as to the profession’s ability to continue carrying out its important work adequately under such conditions.”
We urge Your Excellencies to take every step to stem the tide of violence against journalists in Bangladesh . It is deplorable when criminals target and harm journalists involved in uncovering their actions. But it is a tragedy of immense proportions when the police act to silence and intimidate the press. It is essential that the leaders of Bangladesh make it clear to criminals — security forces and police officers alike — that journalists are to be protected and left free to do their work.
Norman A. Schorr
Co-chairmen, Freedom of the Press Committee
H.E. Iajuddin Ahmed Ambassador Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury
President Permanent Representative
President’s Secretariat Permanent Mission of the P. R. of Bangladesh
Bangabhaban to the United Nations
Dhaka 1000, Dhaka Division 227 East 45 Street, 14 th Floor
People’s Republic of Bangladesh New York, NY 10017
Fax: (011.8802) 86-63-00 Fax: (212) 972-4310
H.E. Khaleda Zia Harry Thomas, Jr.
Prime Minister U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh
Old Sangshad Bhaban Embassy of the United States of America
Prime Minister’s Secretariat Madani Avenue , Baridhara
Tejgaon, Dhaka Dhaka 1000
People’s Republic of Bangladesh Bangladesh
Fax: (011.8802) 81-32-43/ 44 Fax: (011.8802) 882-3744
Ahmad Tariq Karim
Ambassador of Bangladesh to the U.S.
Embassy of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh
3510 International Drive, NW
Washington , DC 20007
Fax: (202) 244-5366