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Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Bangladesh

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1997
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Bangladesh, February 1997, available at: [accessed 22 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

A political crisis in Bangladesh, emanating from long-standing tensions between the ruling Bangladesh National Party (BNP) and opposition parties led by the Awami League, led to severe and widespread attacks on the press. Journalists were variously assaulted, arrested, and in one case, murdered, because of their suspected ties to the opposition, their coverage of abuses by police and paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) during the rioting, or simply because they were caught in the violence between the opposition and government forces or supporters.

Lawlessness and violence enveloped the Feb. 15 elections, boycotted by opposition parties. Yasin Kabir Joy, a photographer for the daily Janakantha, and Tapan Dey, a photographer for the daily Khabar, were beaten on Feb. 4 by pro-government students while covering a clash between rival student groups at Dhaka University. A week later, on Feb. 10, Joy and Shaiful Islam, a photographer for Banglar Bani, were severely beaten by BDR troops while covering a clash between the BDR and opposition supporters. BDR troops broke four of Joy's teeth and fractured his wrist and elbow. Law enforcement officials were also responsible for the death of Mohammad Quaruzzaman, a reporter for the weekly newspaper Neel Sagar, who was shot by police while he was covering their crackdown on a violent protest in the north of the country. The Dhaka-based daily Ajker Kagoj, a pro-Awami League paper, suffered sustained attacks. Masked intruders raided the offices of Ajker Kagoj on April 14, damaging property and threatening to kill the paper's editor, Kazi Shahid Ahmed. Ahmed, who had been charged with sedition on Feb. 29, was in hiding at the time.

The violence abated after a second round of elections on June 12 that brought the Awami League to power under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed. In an address to the nation following her election, she promised to foster an atmosphere conducive to press freedom and to grant autonomy to state-owned media. Press freedom conditions have improved substantially since her government assumed office.

February 4
Yasin Kabir Joy, Janakantha, ATTACKED

Joy, a photographer for the daily Janakantha, Dhaka's largest newspaper, was assaulted while covering a clash at Dhaka University between student groups supporting rival political parties. According to a United Press International report, Joy and at least one other photojournalist were beaten as they tried to photograph pro-government students destroying microphones set up for an opposition group meeting. Joy's camera and eyeglasses were smashed during the attack.

February 19
Mohammad Quamruzzaman, Neel Sagar, KILLED

Police fatally shot Quamruzzaman, a reporter for the weekly newspaper Neel Sagar, while he was covering their crackdown on a violent protest against election results in the northern town of Nilphamari. According to several reports, police officers beat and kicked the journalist after having shot him. Although they initially refused to acknowledge his death, authorities later handed over Quamruzzaman's body to relatives. CPJ wrote a letter to Bangladesh authorities, urging them to launch an investigation and prosecute those responsible for the murder.

February 29
Syed Borhan Kabir, Ajker Kagoj, IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION
Kazi Shahid Ahmed, Ajker Kagoj, LEGAL ACTION

Kabir, a reporter for the daily Ajker Kagoj, was arrested at his office for publishing an article that Ministry of Home Affairs officials deemed seditious and threatening to government security. He was denied bail and taken to the central jail in Dhaka. Police also attempted to arrest Kabir's editor, Kazi Shahid Ahmed, on charges of sedition, but he evaded arrest and went into hiding. In the offending article, published Jan. 29, Kabir had stated that the election commission's request to post army sentries at polling stations was unconstitutional. His report also said some members of the army had refused to comply with the request. Kabir was subsequently denied an appeal for a bail hearing.

June 19
S.M. Alauddin, Ogrodoot, KILLED

Masked gunmen shot Alauddin, editor of the weekly Ogrodoot and a former member of Parliament for the governing Awami League, in Satkhira, where Ogrodoot is published. The unidentified assailants entered the newspaper's office, just a few yards from the main police station in Satkhira, and shot Alauddin while he was watching the nightly news on television. Other journalists and political activists who were there at the time of the attack rushed him to a local hospital, but he died shortly afterward. Police told local journalists that the murder stemmed from a longstanding political feud, but they failed to provide further details.

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