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Attacks on the Press in 1998 - Bangladesh

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1999
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1998 - Bangladesh, February 1999, available at: [accessed 17 December 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.

As of December 31, 1998

Although the constitution guarantees press freedom, Bangladeshi journalists face considerable risk in practicing their profession. Violent attacks have become disturbingly common, and death threats almost routine. Meanwhile, the government did little to ensure that those responsible for crimes against journalists were punished for their actions.

Many attacks were led by activists from the country's major political parties. Members of the student wing of the ruling Awami League, headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed, have repeatedly harassed and threatened correspondents who expose their often coercive political tactics at Dhaka University.

Because of authorities' failure to pursue investigations into such attacks, it is difficult to establish the motive for every incident. When Saiful Alam Mukul, editor of the Bengali-language Daily Runner newspaper, was murdered in August, it was unclear whether he was killed for publishing reports exposing local gang activity, political corruption, or the movements of guerrillas operating in the district. Financial difficulties – stemming from the government's decision to stop advertising in the paper in February – had forced the Runner to cease publication on June 16. Mukul was killed just two weeks after his August 15 announcement that he would relaunch the paper. His murder outraged the nation's journalistic community, and its timing sent a chilling message to those who would dare publish controversial reports of any kind.

Journalists who tackled religious issues also came under fire. In May, local officials in Jessore nearly shut down two newspapers for publishing articles that had apparently offended the Hindu and Muslim communities. And when the writer Taslima Nasreen returned to Bangladesh in September after years of living in exile, she was greeted by large-scale demonstrations staged by conservative Muslims, calling for her execution. She also faced charges for the "deliberate outrage of religious feelings."

Criminal defamation laws remain on the books, and are often used to harass journalists who write about politically sensitive topics. Although government officials have discussed replacing the arrest warrant with a court summons, most journalists are forced to endure arrest and post bail before their case, which then tends to languish interminably in the judicial system.

The existence of more than 500 newspapers and magazines is, however, evidence of a vibrant journalistic community. Local journalists vigorously protest attacks directed against the media, and there are a number of independent publications that continue to air sensitive topics. But in a country where three-quarters of the population are illiterate, electronic media remain most effective in reaching a broad audience. Radio and television are both still controlled by the government, and have been criticized for giving almost no news coverage to the political opposition.

Attacks on the Press in Bangladesh in 1998

11/18/98Mufti Abdul Hye, Jago Mujahid, publisher and editorImprisoned
11/18/98Manzur Ahmed, Jago Mujahid, executive editorImprisoned
11/09/98Shafiuddin Bitu, InquilabAttacked
11/09/98Emran Hossain, Daily StarAttacked
11/09/98Khaled Mahmud, Dainik DinkalAttacked
11/09/98Farhad Hossain, New NationAttacked
11/09/98Tarif Rahman, The IndependentAttacked
11/09/98Anisur Rahman, Daily StarAttacked
11/09/98Shamim Noor, Ajker KagojAttacked
11/09/98Nurun Nabi Robi, Dainik JanakanthaAttacked
11/09/98Sanjeev Basak, Dainik MuktakanthaAttacked
09/25/98Taslima Nasreen, free-lancerThreatened, Legal Action
08/30/98Saiful Alam Mukul, Daily RunnerKilled
07/26/98Delwar Hossain, Dainik DinkalThreatened
06/18/98Abdullah Farooq, SangbadHarassed
06/18/98Dainik MuktakanthaAttacked
06/18/98Manav ZaminAttacked
06/18/98Bhorer KagojAttacked
06/18/98Daily StarAttacked
06/18/98Ajker KagojAttacked
06/18/98Banglabazar PatrikaAttacked
06/09/98Masud Ahmed, Manav ZaminAttacked
06/09/98Abdul Aziz, BanglabazarAttacked
06/09/98Faruq Ahmed Bakht, Dainik DinkalAttacked
06/09/98Nijamul Huq, Bhorer KagojAttacked
06/09/98Mostfa Ahmed Chowdhury, ManuebartaAttacked
05/26/98Manav ZaminAttacked, Threatened, Harassed
05/13/98Dainik PurabiLegal Action
05/10/98Dainik LokesamajLegal Action
04/20/98Absar Uddin Chowdhury, Dainik KarnaphuliImprisoned
04/20/98Mamunur Rashid, Dainik KarnaphuliImprisoned
04/20/98Mofizur Rahman, Dainik Comilla BartaImprisoned
04/20/98Iqbal Ahmed, Dainik MuktakanthaImprisoned
04/20/98Yasin Hira, Dainik MuktakanthaImprisoned
04/20/98Dainik KarnaphuliThreatened
04/15/98BTV cameramanAttacked
03/30/98Hafizur Rahman Minto, InqilabAttacked
03/18/98Alam Raihan, Sugandha KagojImprisoned, Attacked
03/18/98Mozammel Hoq, Media SyndicateThreatened, Harassed
03/18/98Shaukat Mohmood, Media SyndicateThreatened, Harassed
03/18/98Jamal Hossain, Benapole BartaLegal Action
03/18/98Bokul Mahbub, Benapole BartaLegal Action
03/18/98Mohammad Ali, Benapole BartaLegal Action
02/05/98AKM Bahauddin, InqilabLegal Action
02/05/98AKM Mohiuddin, InqilabLegal Action
02/05/98ASM Baki Billah, InqilabLegal Action
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