Attacks on the Press in 2004 - Bangladesh
|Publisher||Committee to Protect Journalists|
|Publication Date||February 2005|
|Cite as||Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 2004 - Bangladesh, February 2005, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c566c8a0.html [accessed 23 March 2017]|
|Disclaimer||This 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.|
The Bangladeshi press endured another volatile and violent year in 2004, with three journalists murdered in retaliation for their work, scores of death threats from extremist groups, and routine harassment and physical attacks. A CPJ delegation that conducted a fact-finding and advocacy mission to the country in March concluded that Bangladesh was the most dangerous country for journalists in the region. Rising religious fundamentalism, increased political tensions, and regional lawlessness contributed to 2004's ominous press freedom landscape, while the pervasive culture of impunity continued to embolden those who would silence critical voices.
Two leading journalists and press freedom activists were killed in bomb attacks in the southwestern Khulna District, an area along the Indian border rife with crime.
On January 15, senior investigative reporter Manik Saha was brutally murdered by a homemade bomb thrown at him in broad daylight. Saha, a correspondent for the English-language daily New Age and a stringer for the BBC, had a reputation for bold reporting on local criminal gangs and drug smugglers. His death shocked the journalism community and the country. Prime Minister Khaleda Zia pledged to track down and punish those behind the killing.
An underground leftist group, Janajuddha (People's War), a faction of the outlawed Purbo Banglar Communist Party (PBCP), claimed responsibility for Saha's murder the day after he died. In the following weeks, the PBCP threatened to kill as many as 20 other local journalists in a similar fashion unless they stopped reporting about Saha's killing and the group's criminal activities.
On June 20, police charged 12 people in connection with Saha's murder, according to The Associated Press (AP). But the four suspects in custody have no connection with Janajuddha, sources told CPJ, casting doubt on the validity of the arrests. Local journalists question whether those actually responsible for organizing the attack will ever be brought to justice. The trial for Saha's murder is scheduled to begin in early 2005 under the Speedy Trial Act, which denies bail to defendants.
On June 27, Humayun Kabir, another well-known journalist who edited the Bangla-language daily Janmabhumi (Motherland), was murdered in a similar bomb attack in Khulna. Kabir was president of the Khulna Press Club and had published articles exposing local organized crime. Janajuddha also claimed responsibility for his death. The BBC reported that nine suspects have been detained in connection with Kabir's murder, but local journalists remain skeptical about the case being resolved because the suspects have not been convincingly linked to Janajuddha. Local sources told CPJ that the families of the murdered journalists refused to file cases with the police because of their lack of faith in the legal process.
A third journalist, Kamal Hossain, was abducted and brutally murdered in August in the southeastern Chittagong District in retaliation for his investigative reporting on local criminal groups for the Bangla-language daily Ajker Kagoj, according to local journalists.
Unidentified assailants kidnapped Hossain's 2-year-old son, holding him until the journalist surrendered and was taken away at gunpoint on August 21. Hossain's decapitated body was found near his house the next day; his wife told local reporters that he had received death threats in the weeks leading up to the attack. The Chittagong District is notorious for crime, including illegal lumber and arms dealing, sources told CPJ.
Crime reporter Sumi Khan survived a knife attack in the port city of Chittagong, the lawless district's capital, in April. Three unidentified assailants cut her forehead, mouth, and hands with a knife while trying to take her from the rickshaw in which she was riding. Khan, a longtime reporter with the publication Weekly 2000, said the assailants shouted: "You have gone too far. You are very daring, and you should not be."
The government's long-standing sensitivity to outside criticism continued in 2004. A CPJ delegation visiting the capital, Dhaka, was subjected to blatant surveillance and harassment by government minders, despite having official approval for the trip. The four-person CPJ delegation met with press freedom activists, journalists, and government officials from the two leading political parties to learn more about the formidable obstacles facing the Bangladeshi press, and to pressure authorities into taking action in their defense.
At a press conference in Dhaka, the CPJ delegation concluded that local journalists all too frequently risk attacks and death in retaliation for their reporting. In response to questions in Parliament about CPJ's findings, Prime Minister Zia denied that journalists are targeted for their work, claiming that any such attacks stem from "local-level reasons, and not for journalism," the AP reported.
In a disturbing trend, Islamic extremist groups threatened journalists throughout the country for reporting on their activities, calling them "enemies of Islam." In May, members of an Islamic vigilante organization, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB), rallied in the northwestern city of Rajshahi and called for local journalists who report on their activities to be killed. Nine journalists in the nearby northwestern district of Dinajpur received death threat letters days later from a suspected Islamic militant group with ties to JMJB. In July, another Islamic group calling itself the Mujahideen al-Islam sent death threats to at least 24 journalists and writers in Dhaka, the northeastern city of Sylet, and the southern district of Barguna.
After Prothom Alo, the most widely circulated Bangla-language daily, ran a groundbreaking investigative series in August about the illegal training of militants in Islamic schools, or madrasas, in the southeastern Chittagong District, several Islamic groups began staging protests against the newspaper, including the Islamic fundamentalist political party the Islamic United Front. Demonstrators in several towns throughout Chittagong District and in Dhaka burned copies of the newspaper, destroyed billboards showing its name, and attempted to attack the newspaper's offices, according to local press reports. At a protest in Chittagong on August 21, Fazlul Haq Amini, a member of Parliament from the Islamic United Front, demanded that Prothom Alo be banned and that its editor, Motiur Rahman, be arrested, according to the national news wire service United News of Bangladesh.
Journalists were also at risk covering political clashes that erupted with increasing intensity between supporters of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the opposition Awami League. Journalists reporting on the frequent nationwide strikes, protests, and riots were often caught in the crossfire and even targeted by police and political activists. On August 21, opposition leader Sheikh Hasina survived an assassination attempt when unidentified assailants threw grenades at her while she was stepping down from the podium at a rally in Dhaka. At least seven journalists covering the rally were among the hundreds wounded in the attack. Police also beat four photographers covering a strike in Dhaka in June, according to local news reports.
In March and September, members of the ruling BNP's student wing, the Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD), targeted journalists reporting on student demonstrations on the Dhaka University campus. JCD activists beat journalists who were taking pictures of their violent activities and confiscated their equipment and film while police stood by. In a meeting with CPJ representatives in March, then Home Secretary Altaf Chowdhury claimed that journalists were harmed accidentally while covering demonstrations. But journalists interviewed by CPJ said they were specifically targeted; they noted they are well known at the university, and that their professional identification and equipment clearly mark them as working members of the press.
Justice was delayed in the ongoing trial of those accused of attacking Prothom Alo reporter and 2002 International Press Freedom Award recipient Tipu Sultan. In October 2003, a group of 13 people, including former member of Parliament Joynal Hazari, went on trial on charges of attempted murder for the vicious attack on Sultan in early 2001. But the trial was stalled twice in 2004, in January and in August, when several defendants received six-month postponements from the court. CPJ urged Law Minister Moudud Ahmad and other government officials to prosecute Sultan's case aggressively, but at year's end, the trial showed no signs of reconvening.
Bangladesh's lone imprisoned journalist, Salah Uddin Shoaib Chowdhury, remained in failing health behind bars on sedition charges despite repeated attempts to gain his release on bail, according to his family. Zia sent a memo to the Home Ministry in the spring asking that the case be resolved expeditiously, but Bangladesh's High Court denied Chowdhury's request for bail in August. Chowdhury was arrested in November 2003 while on his way to address a group of writers in Israel.
2004 Documented Cases – Bangladesh
JANUARY 15, 2004
Updated: November 4, 2004
Manik Saha, New Age
KILLED – CONFIRMED
Saha, a veteran journalist and press freedom activist, was targeted and killed in a bomb attack in the southwestern city of Khulna.
Saha, a correspondent with the daily New Age and a contributor to the BBC's Bengali-language service, was on his way home from the Khulna Press Club by rickshaw when unidentified assailants stopped his vehicle and threw a bomb at Saha's head, according to local journalists. The bomb detonated, and decapitated the 45-year-old, killing him instantly, according to The Associated Press. The assailants fled the scene.
Police have launched an investigation into the murder and suspect that members of the region's outlawed Maoist guerrilla groups may be responsible for the attack, according to the online edition of The New Nation newspaper. On the day of Saha's murder, an underground leftist group, Janajuddha (People's War), a faction of the Purbo Banglar Communist Party, claimed responsibility for the killing in letters faxed to local news organizations. More than five months later, on June 20, police charged 12 people in connection with Saha's murder. But local journalists say that those responsible for organizing the attack have not been arrested and doubt that they will be brought to justice.
A former reporter with the daily Sangbad, Saha had 20 years of journalism experience and was known for his bold reporting on the Khulna region's criminal gangs, drug traffickers, and Maoist insurgents, said local journalists. According to these sources, in recent days, Saha felt that he was increasingly in danger of attack in reprisal for his reporting. They said that he told colleagues that he had received several death threats that he suspected may have come from criminal gangs.
Saha, who was active in Bangladesh's press freedom community, was the former president of the Khulna Press Club and worked closely with the Bangladesh Center for Development, Journalism and Communication, a local press freedom group.
Police charged 13 alleged Maoists insurgents with Saha's murder in June, although only four were in police custody. A trial began in September.
Two suspects, leaders of the Janajuddha faction, died in separate shootouts with police in late August. Authorities also accused the two dead suspects, Altaf Hossain and Imam Sarder, in the murder of Humayun Kabir, an editor from Khulna who died in a violent attack in June, according to local news reports.
JANUARY 22, 2004
Posted: February 2, 2004
Mizanur Rahman, Janakantha
Kalyan Banarjee, Prothom Alo
Suvash Chowdhury, Bhorer Kagoj
Ram Krishna, Jugantar
Shahin Goldar, Khabor Patra
Kazi Dulal, Gramer Kagoj
Abul Kalam, Purbanchal
Abdul Bari, Dinkal
M. Raju, Sangbad
The leader of the Purba Banglar Communist Party (PBCP), an outlawed Maoist group, sent a threatening letter to the Satkhira Press Club, a city near Khulna in southwestern Bangladesh. In the letter, PBCP leader Gaffar Tushar threatened to kill nine local correspondents unless they stopped writing about the murder of journalist Manik Saha, according to local journalists. The journalists named in the letter were: Mizanur Rahman, of the daily Janakantha; Kalyan Banarjee, of the daily Prothom Alo; Suvash Chowdhury, of the daily Bhorer Kagoj; Ram Krishna, of the daily Jugantar; Shahin Goldar, of the daily Khabor Patra; Kazi Dulal, of the daily Gramer Kagoj; Abul Kalam, of the daily Purbanchal; Abdul Bari, of the daily Dinkal; and M. Raju, of the daily Sangbad.
Saha, a veteran journalist and correspondent for the daily New Age, was killed in a bomb attack in Khulna on January 15. In a letter faxed to local newspapers in Khulna on January 16, Tusher claimed responsibility for Saha's murder. In the days before the murder, Saha had received several anonymous death threats, and he had reported on the PBCP's illegal activities.
In the January 22 letter to the Satkhira Press Club, Tusher threatened to murder the nine journalists listed in a similar fashion. "Now guerrillas of my party will kill you by throwing bombs at you in broad daylight," threatened the PBCP leader, according to local journalists.
All of the nine journalists are local reporters for national newspapers, and they have all written about the criminal activities of the PBCP.
FEBRUARY 7, 2004
Posted: February 12, 2004
Zahangir Alam Akash, Dainik Sangbad
Samir Kumar Dey, Jugantor
Hasan Millat, Sonali Sangbad
Prashanta Saha, Upachar
Zabid Apu, Jugantor
Anwar Ali, The Daily Star
Anu Mustafa, Prothom Alo
Saidur Rahman, Bhorer Kagoj
Abu Saleh Fatteh, Channel I
Selim Jahangir, Janakantha
A letter containing death threats from Janajuddha (People's War), a faction of the Purbo Banglar Communist Party (PBCP), arrived at the Metropolitan Press Club in the northwestern city of Rajshahi. The letter threatened the following 11 journalists: Akash, staff reporter of the daily Dainik Sangbad; Dey, local correspondent of the daily Jugantor; Millat, editor of the local daily Sonali Sangbad; Saha, assistant editor of the local daily Upachar; Anisuzzaman (who goes by one name), staff correspondent of the national daily Janakantha; Apu, photojournalist with the daily Jugantor; Ali, staff correspondent with national English-language daily The Daily Star; Mustafa, local correspondent with the daily Prothom Alo; Rahman, a local correspondent for the daily Bhorer Kagoj; Fatteh, of private television Channel I; and Jahangir, a photojournalist with Janakantha.
The letter called the journalists "associates of class enemies" because of their reporting on the PBCP and threatened to kill them all by the end of February by shooting, bombing, or hacking them to death, said local news reports.
Rajshahi Metropolitan Press Club General Secretary Hasan Millat filed a complaint with local police, who posted officers at the press club, according to The Daily Star.
According to news reports, in the letter, the PBCP Janajuddha faction claimed responsibility for the January 15 murder of veteran journalist Manik Saha, who was killed in the southwestern city of Khulna, which, like Rajshahi, is located along the Indian border where outlawed groups, such as PBCP, are reported to conduct criminal activities.
Saha, a correspondent for the daily New Age and a stringer for the BBC, was murdered when unidentified assailants threw a homemade bomb at him while he was riding home in a rickshaw. On January 16, a letter signed by the leader of Janajuddha, Gaffar Tusher, was faxed to local newspapers in Khulna claiming responsibility for Saha's murder. Saha had recently received death threats and had reported on the PBCP's illegal activities.
Journalists were outraged by Saha's brutal murder and staged protests and strikes around the country calling for the apprehension of his killers. On January 22, Tusher sent another letter to the press club in Satkhira, a city near Khulna, threatening to murder nine other journalists in a similar fashion. "Now guerrillas of my party will kill you by throwing bombs at you in broad daylight," Tusher threatened, according to local journalists.
The nine journalists threatened in Satkhira were Mizanur Rahman, of the daily Janakantha; Kalyan Banarjee, of the daily Prothom Alo; Suvash Chowdhury, of the daily Bhorer Kagoj; Ram Krishna, of the daily Jugantar; Shahin Goldar, of the daily Khabor Patra; Kazi Dulal, of the daily Gramer Kagoj; Abul Kalam, of the daily Purbanchal; Abdul Bari, of the daily Dinkal; and M. Raju, of the daily Sangbad.
MARCH 2, 2004
Posted: March 4, 2004
Firoz Chowdhury, Prothom Alo
Mainul Hossain Chowdhury, Ajker Kagoj
While covering a violent student demonstration at Dhaka University, Firoz Chowdhury, the chief photographer of the popular Bangladesh-language daily Prothom Alo, was attacked by activists with the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party's student wing, the Jatiyatabi Chhatra Dhal (JCD). Police beat Mainul Hossain Chowdhury (no relation), with the Bangladesh-language daily Ajker Kagoj, even after he identified himself as a reporter.
The demonstration was sparked by the February 27 knife attack on Dhaka University professor and writer Humayun Azad. According to local journalists, the police used batons and tear gas to disperse the crowd, and JCD activists attacked the student protesters.
When the activists noticed Firoz Chowdhury taking their photo, a group of as many as 15 JCD members surrounded Chowdhury, attacking him, and smashing his digital camera, Chowdhury told CPJ. Chowdhury was hospitalized at Dhaka's Shamrita Hospital with wounds on his back, shoulders, and chest.
Mainul Hossain Chowdhury, who was beaten by police, received treatment for a fractured leg and a head injury, according to local journalists. Witnesses from the scene told CPJ that as many as six or seven other journalists were wounded in the attack. According to the Dhaka-based Daily Star, as many as 100 students were also injured in the attack.
In a meeting with Bangladesh's Home Minister, members of a CPJ delegation, who are traveling in Bangladesh, raised concern about yesterday's attacks. Local journalists told CPJ that they believe the police and JCD members were deliberately targeting them.
Political tensions have increased in Bangladesh with the opposition Awami League party calling four general strikes in the last 16 days and the brutal attack on Professor Azad in February. Azad was knifed in the face by unknown assailants apparently in retaliation for his fictionalized writing about fundamentalism. He survived the attack but is still being treated at the Combined Military Hospital in Dhaka.
MARCH 13, 2004
Posted: April 9, 2004
Golam Mortaza, Saptahik 2000
Mortaza, an investigative reporter with the weekly Bangla-language magazine Saptahik 2000, received a package in the mail containing a funeral shroud with a note that read, "The shroud is your reward for writing about us," according to The Daily Star. Later that day, Mortaza received an anonymous phone call repeating the death threat against him.
Mortaza's editor, Shahadat Chowdhury, told The Associated Press that Mortaza had received several other anonymous death threats both on his cell phone and on his office phone that week.
The journalist had recently written about religious fundamentalists, the criminal underworld, and corrupt politicians, according to local press reports.
The office of Mortaza's news magazine filed an official complaint with police and requested protection for the journalist, according to The Associated Press.
APRIL 4, 2004
Posted: April 8, 2004
Delwar Hossain, Jugantor
Hossain, correspondent of the Bangla-language daily Jugantor, was shot while in the capital, Dhaka, in the afternoon.
Hossain was in a store in central Dhaka when two unidentified men entered and shot him, according to local news reports. There were conflicting accounts about his wounds; some said he was shot in the head and back, but the United News of Bangladesh wire service reported that he was shot twice in the stomach. CPJ continues to investigate the incident.
After the attack, Hossain was taken to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital, where he is recovering after surgery, according to local n news reports. He spoke with reporters in the hospital yesterday and accused a local criminal group of ordering the attack against him in retaliation for his reporting about their illegal activities.
According to The Associated Press, police are currently investigating the shooting. Local journalists held a demonstration on Monday, April 5, to protest the incident.
APRIL 16, 2004
Posted: April 20, 2004
Shaheen Mollah, The Daily Star
Baki Billah, Sangbad
Mollah and Billah were attacked and beaten by a group of activists from the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party's student wing, the Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD), at a pharmacy near the Dhaka Medical College Hospital, according to The Daily Star.
Earlier that day, two JCD members from Dhaka University went to the pharmacy, took some medicine without paying, and threatened the pharmacy owner, Moshiur Rahman Liton. After the JCD members left, Liton called Mollah and Billah and told them what had happened. The two journalists came to the pharmacy and were talking to Liton at around 2:30 p.m. when a group of about 20 JCD members assaulted them and ransacked and looted the pharmacy.
Billah was admitted to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Hospital in serious condition with head, neck, and hand injuries. He fell into a coma on April 17 and was transferred to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH). Liton, who was also admitted to DMCH, suffered head and neck injuries.
Local journalists groups protested the attack, demanding police action against the assailants. Police have not yet made any arrests.
APRIL 27, 2004
Posted: April 29, 2004
Sumi Khan, Weekly 2000
Khan was on her way home on the evening of April 27 when three unidentified assailants in a rickshaw tried to forcibly take her with them, according to Khan. As she struggled against her attackers, they cut her forehead, mouth, and hands with a knife, and beat her arms and legs. Khan said that while they were attacking her, the assailants shouted at her, "You have gone too far. You are very daring, and you should not be."
Khan then lost consciousness. People on the street came to her defense, but her assailants got away. Khan said that three policemen stood by while the attack took place.
Locals took her to a hospital. Khan, who was sent home after receiving stitches in her forehead, is still in great pain. Khan called police and filed a complaint against the three men. Although police promised to come to her to follow up with her on the investigation, no officers had arrived two days later.
Chittagong is a city known for violent crime, kidnappings for ransom, and extortion. Khan said that she has been receiving threats for months because of her reporting on criminal figures.
In March, CPJ met Khan and other journalists from outside the capital during a mission to Bangladesh. CPJ has documented dozens of similar attacks on journalists in Bangladesh in retaliation for their reporting on crime and corruption.
The Chittagong Union of Journalists has also protested the attack and called for the arrest of the assailants.
MAY 23, 2004
Posted: June 3, 2004
Members of the Islamic vigilante organization Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) threatened local journalists during a public demonstration in the northwestern city of Rajshahi. The rally, which thousands of JMJB supporters attended, took place under police escort, according to local news reports.
According to local media and CPJ sources, JMJB leaders said that local journalists should be killed for reporting negatively on their activities. "Reporters are falsely accusing us of killing, torture, and oppression. They do not know that their pen might stop some day," said Lutfar Rahman, a JMJB leader addressing the crowd, according to the news Web site One World South Asia.
Four journalists were specifically mentioned, according to local sources: Anisuzzaman (who goes by one name), a local correspondent for the national Bengali-language daily Janakantha; Selim Jahangir, a photographer for Janakantha; Mahtab Chowdhury, a correspondent for the local Bengali-language daily Sonali Sangbad; and Jahangir Alam Akash, a correspondent for the national Bangali-language daily Sangbad.
The JMJB has been engaged in a violent campaign against militant Maoist groups in northwestern Bangladesh since April and has enjoyed police protection, according to local media. A May report in the national English-language Daily Star linked JMJB members to Al-Qaeda.
MAY 25, 2004
Posted: June 3, 2004
Chitha Ghosh, Dinajpur Press Club
Golam Nabi Dulal, Dinajpur Press Club
Swarup Kumar Bakshi Bacchu, Dinajpur Union of Journalists
Shaheen Hossain, Dinajpur Union of Journalists
Ahsanul Alam Saathi, free-lance
Sazzadur Rahman Shili, Janakantha
Asadullah Sarkar, Prothom Alo
At least nine journalists in the northwestern district of Dinajpur received death threats by mail from a suspected Islamic militant organization. The journalists included Ghosh, president of the Dinajpur Press Club; Dulal, general secretary of the press club; Bacchu, president of the Dinajpur Union of Journalists; Hossain, the union's secretary; Saathi, a freelance journalist; Shili, a local correspondent for the national Bengali-language daily Janakantha; and Sarkar, a correspondent for the national Bengali-language daily Prothom Alo.
In the letters, members of militant Islamic group Jamaat-ul-Mujahidin claim to have sent the threats. Local media have linked Jamaat-ul-Mujahidin to the Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB), an Islamic vigilante organization that has led a violent campaign against militant Maoist groups in northwestern Bangladesh since April. A May report in the national English-language Daily Star linked JMJB members to al-Qaeda.
CPJ sources said the threats stemmed from recent articles in the local media criticizing Islamic militant groups for carrying out extra-judicial killings of alleged Maoist militants and for enforcing strict interpretations of Islamic codes on local residents, including forcing women to wear veils and men to grow beards. Local media have also reported that the groups have benefited from police support.
Sarkar said that the threatening letters "termed us as evil and said that we should put down our pens or our wives would become widows," the news Web site One World South Asia reported.
JUNE 4, 2004
Posted: June 9, 2004
Mamun Abedin, Bhorer Kagoj
Abu Taher Khokon, New Age
Ali Hossain Mintu, Dainik Janata
Akhter Hossain, News Today
On the eve of a nation-wide antigovernment strike, or hartal, police assaulted photojournalists who were covering a protest march led by supporters of the opposition Awami League political party in the capital, Dhaka, according to local press reports and CPJ sources. Four photographers were injured in the assault: Mamun Abedin of the Bengali-language daily Bhorer Kagoj; Abu Taher Khokon of the English-language daily New Age; Ali Hossain Mintu of the Bengali-language daily Dainik Janata; and Akhter Hossain of the English-language daily News Today.
JUNE 5, 2004
Posted: June 9, 2004
M. A. Manik, Grammer Kagoj
Habibur Rahman Habib, freelance
Touhidur Rahman, freelance
H.M. Siraj, freelance
Rafiqul Islam, freelance
S.M. Kabir, freelance
While covering a nationwide antigovernment strike, or hartal, M. A. Manik, a photographer working for the local Bengali-language Grammer Kagoj, was beaten by police in the town of Jessore, in the southwestern Khulna District, according to CPJ sources. When the local press club organized a procession to protest the assault, police attacked the procession, injuring five more journalists who work as local freelance reporters: Habibur Rahman Habib, Touhidur Rahman, H.M. Siraj, Rafiqul Islam, and S.M. Kabir.
JUNE 22, 2004
Posted: June 24, 2004
Mozaffar Rahman, Patradut
Monirul Islam Moni, Patradut
Rahman, a reporter with the local Bengali-language daily Patradut, and Moni, a photographer with Patradut, were assaulted while visiting a district prison in Satkhira, a town in southwestern Bangladesh. Their visit followed the publication of a report in another Satkhira-based Bengali-language daily, Kafela, that accused prison guards of extorting money from visitors. Local journalists told CPJ they believe the journalists were assaulted in retaliation for the article.
After a prison official identified Rahman and Moni as journalists, he ordered guards to assault them, the national English-language Daily Star reported. The guards beat the journalists with batons, causing chest, leg, and back injuries, according to local sources.
Rahman and Moni were detained at the jail for several hours before local colleagues arrived and demanded their release. The journalists are recovering from their injuries at a hospital in Satkhira.
Following protests from a Satkhira journalists' group, a criminal case has been filed against prison officials, and five prison staff are under investigation for their involvement in the assault, according to CPJ sources. Local officials have visited the journalists at the hospital and promised to take action against those responsible for the attack.
JUNE 27, 2004
Updated: November 4, 2004
Humayun Kabir, Janmabhumi
KILLED – CONFIRMED
Kabir, editor of the Bangla-language daily Janmabhumi, was killed in a bomb attack in the southwestern city of Khulna. At around 12 p.m., an unidentified assailant threw two bombs at Kabir outside his home while he was exiting his car with his family, according to local news reports.
Witnesses told the English-language Daily Star that the assailant, posing as a peanut seller, approached Kabir and tossed at least two homemade bombs at him, fatally injuring him in the abdomen and the legs. Kabir was taken to Khulna Medical College Hospital and died soon after. Kabir's son Asif also suffered minor injuries on his legs and was treated at a local clinic.
An underground leftist group known as Janajuddha (People's War), a faction of the Purbo Banglar Communist Party, claimed responsibility for the murder in phone calls to several local newspapers and journalists on June 27, according to local journalists.
Kabir, 58, was a veteran journalist and the president of the Khulna Press Club. He published bold articles criticizing the organized crime that plagues Bangladesh's troubled southwestern region. After his friend and fellow journalist Manik Saha was murdered in a similar attack in January, Kabir criticized the criminal elements implicated in Saha's killing. Janajuddha also claimed responsibility for Saha's murder. Kabir had recently been receiving death threats, according to local news reports.
Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and other high-ranking government officials condemned Kabir's brutal murder and pledged to find and punish those responsible. Local journalists' groups spoke out against the murder and called for a week of mourning.
In the immediate aftermath, local police said they detained nine suspects in connection with Kabir's murder, the BBC reported. The case had not been brought to trial by fall.
Two other suspects in the case, leaders of the Janajuddha faction, died in separate shootouts with police in late August. Authorities also accused the two dead suspects, Altaf Hossain and Imam Sarder, in Saha's murder, according to local news reports.
JULY 1, 2004
Posted: July 16, 2004
Monirul Islam Moni, Ittefaq
Habibur Rahman, Juger Barta
Mostafizur Rahman Uzzal, Juger Barta
Altaf Hossain, Sangram
Abdul Wazed Kachi, Inqilab
Shawkat Hossain Moyna, Al-Mujadded
Iduzzaman Idris, Kafela
Mohammad Rafiq, Kafela
Ibrahim Hossain Tuhin, Khabar
Abdus Sattar, Purbanchal
Zillur Rahman, Prabah
Masud Hossain, Lok Samaj
Selim Reza Mukul, freelance
A letter faxed to the Press Club in Satkhira, a city in southwestern Bangladesh, threatened to kill 13 local correspondents by July 18. The letter said it was from Janajuddha (People's War), a faction of the outlawed Purbo Banglar Communist Party (PBCP).
The letter followed the June 27 killing of Humayun Kabir, editor of the Bengali-language daily Janmabhumi, in a bomb attack in the nearby city of Khulna. Janajuddha claimed responsibility for the murder in phone calls to several local newspapers and journalists that same day. After Kabir's death, local journalists in southwestern Bangladesh, already a notoriously violent and lawless area, said they felt increasingly threatened by local militant groups.
According to local sources, these journalists were threatened in the letter; Moni, a correspondent for the national Bengali-language daily Ittefaq; Habibur Rahman, of the Satkhira-based Bengali-language daily Juger Barta; Uzzal, of Juger Barta; Altaf Hossain, of the national Bengali-language daily Sangram; Kachi, of the national Bengali-language daily Inqilab; Moyna, of the national Bengali-language daily Al-Mujadded; Idris, of the Satkhira-based Bengali-language daily Kafela; Rafiq, of Kafela; Tuhin, of the national Bengali-language daily Khabar; Sattar, of the Khulna-based Bengali-language daily Purbanchal; Zillur Rahman, of the Khulna-based Bengali-language daily Prabah; Masud Hossain, of the Jessore-based Bengali-language daily Lok Samaj; and Mukul, a freelance journalist.
In January, a similar letter, which also said it was from the PBCP, was sent to the Satkhira Press Club threatening to kill nine other local correspondents unless they stopped writing about the murder of journalist Manik Saha. Saha, a veteran journalist and press freedom activist, was targeted and killed in a bomb attack in Khulna on January 15. Janajuddha also claimed responsibility for Saha's killing.
JULY 10, 2004
Posted: July 14, 2004
Since July 10, at least 24 journalists and writers have received death threats, all apparently from Islamic groups who accuse them of being "enemies of Islam" or "acting against Islam," according to local news reports and CPJ sources.
Journalists in the northeastern city of Sylhet, the southern district of Barguna, and in the capital, Dhaka, received individual letters on July 10 containing death threats and accusing them of not being Muslim, calling them "enemies of Islam." The letters also advised them to "get ready-you will die within a month," according to the English-language Daily Star.
On July 11, an Islamic group calling itself the Mujahideen al-Islam issued public death threats to newspapers in Dhaka identifying 10 other individuals as "sinners ... among those the Koran ordains to kill," according to local press reports and CPJ sources. Among the threatened individuals were Shahriar Kabir and Professor Muntasir Mamun, both known for their writing against Islamic fundamentalists.
In Syhlet, 15 journalists received threatening letters on July 10, according to local news reports: local correspondents Ahmed Noor and Partha Sarathi Das, of the Bangla-language national daily Prothom Alo; correspondent Liakat Shah Faridi, from the Bangla-language national daily Jugantar; local correspondent Al Azad, from the Bangla-langauge Sangbad; local correspondent Ajoy Pal, from the Bangla-language Bangla Bazar Patrika; local reporter Kamkamur Razzak Runu, from the Bangla-language daily Ajker Kagoj; and staff reporter Salam Mashrur, from the Bangla-language daily Janakantha.
Others who received the letters in Syhlet include Shyamol Sylhet Editor Chowdhury Mumtaj Ahmed, News Editor Abdul Mukit, and staff reporter Motiul Bari Khuhrshed; Jugobheri Editor-in-Charge Aziz Ahmed Selim and News Editor Tapash Dash Purokayastho; Ajker Kagoj District Correspondent Apurbo Dhar; Bhorer Kagoj District Correspondent Bappa Ghose Chowdhury; and Manavjamin Staff Reporter MA Rahim.
In Dhaka, Prothom Alo crime reporter Parvez Khan and Bhorer Kagoj local correspondent Ikhtiar Uddin also received death threat letters on July 10.
In the southern Barguna District, five more journalists were threatened by an unnamed Islamic group on July 10, according to local news reports and CPJ sources. Prothom Alo local correspondent M. Jasim Uddin received a threatening letter containing a small piece of a burial shroud, according to The Daily Star. The letter also mentioned threats against the Bangla-language daily Ittefaq local correspondent Abdul Alim Himu, Jugantor local reporter Anwar Hossain Monwar, Sangbad local correspondent Chittyaranajan Shil, and Ajker Kagoj local reporter Hasanur Rahman Jhantu.
AUGUST 21, 2004
Posted: August 24, 2004
Mohammed Alam, Ittefaq
Mamun Ahmed, Bhorer Kagoj
S.M. Gorki, Jugantor
Mir Farid, Janakantha
Ashraful Alam, Channel-I
Zakir, Channel I
Sayed Reaz, ATN
At least seven journalists were wounded when unidentified assailants apparently attempted to assassinate opposition leader Sheikh Hasina at the end of a political rally in the capital Dhaka near her Awami League party headquarters, according to the Internet edition of the Ittefaq newspaper.
Hasina had just finished her speech at the rally, which was held to protest another recent bombing, when several hand grenades were thrown at the stage, killing at least 17 people and wounding several hundred others, according to local and international news reports.
After Hasina fled the auditorium, a gunman opened fire on her armored car, but she was able to escape with only minor injuries.
Television cameramen and reporters on the stage to film the event were hurt during the attack, including Alam, Zakir, and Reaz.
The assassination attempt sparked political tensions in Bangladesh, and riot police and paramilitaries were called out to the streets throughout the country to keep order.
Thousands of Awami League supporters protested the attack over the weekend. Angry supporters clashed with police and set a passenger train on fire in Dhaka on August 22, wounding at least 25 people, according to local news reports.
Agence France-Presse reported that two journalists were wounded on August 23 while covering demonstrations in Dhaka after being attacked by supporters of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
AUGUST 22, 2004
Posted: December 3, 2004
Kamal Hossain, Ajker Kagoj
KILLED – CONFIRMED
Hossain, the local correspondent for the Bangla-language daily Ajker Kagoj, was abducted and brutally murdered by unknown assailants in the early morning in Manikcchari, eastern Chittagong District, according to local news reports. The newswire service the United News of Bangladesh (UNB) reported that police discovered Hossain's decapitated body nearby hours later.
According to Bangladeshi news reports, armed men broke into Hossain's house in the middle of the night and threatened to kill Hossain's 2-year-old son unless he surrendered to them. The men took Hossain away at gunpoint and later killed him.
Hossain, 32, was the general secretary of the Manikcchari Press Club and had recently written several articles about criminal activity, according to local journalists. The Chittagong District is notorious for organized crime, including the illegal trade of lumber and arms, sources told CPJ. Hossain was also involved with the local youth wing of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal, and had recently had a dispute with a neighbor about land, Bangladeshi news outlets reported.
But local journalists told CPJ they are convinced that Hossain's murder was related to his investigative reporting about organized crime. His wife says he had received death threats before his murder, according to local news reports. An article in Ajker Kagoj at the time of his death also claimed that Hossain was likely killed because of his investigative work. Bangladeshi press groups condemned the killing and called for justice.
AUGUST 24, 2004
Posted: September 13, 2004
Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, The Bangladesh Observer
Chowdhury, the editor of the English language daily The Bangladesh Observer, received an anonymous death threat in the mail at the newspaper's office, according to local sources and press accounts. The letter mentioned the recent death of the prominent professor Humayun Azad, who died in Germany in August and was brutally attacked by militants in February at Dhaka University.
Religious fundamentalists appeared to be responsible for the threat, according to local press reports. Fundamentalist groups have stepped up threats against journalists and intellectuals this year.
The letter claimed that fundamentalism would never be rooted out of the country, according to the Bangla-language daily Jugantor, and that the letter was meant to be a "red light" to Chowdhury.
Chowdhury, who is also president of the opposition faction of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists, has spoken out against militant fundamentalism and their threats against the press. He filed a complaint with police and requested protection.
SEPTEMBER 11, 2004
Posted: September 14, 2004
Sahabul Huq Sabu, Ittefaq
Mokarram Hossain Shubho Prothom Alo
Zia Islam, Prothom Alo
Amran Hossain, The Daily Star
Four unidentified journalists (including photographers for New Age and Bhorer Kagoj)
Pro-government activists attacked at least eight journalists covering student demonstrations on the Dhaka University campus in the capital, Dhaka.
Members of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party's youth wing, the Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD), went on a rampage around midday, attacking opposition student demonstrators with sticks and iron rods, and injuring at least 40 protesters, according to Bangladeshi news reports. Six opposition organizations were protesting the August 21 assassination attempt on opposition leader Sheikh Hasina, and calling for the ruling government to resign.
When journalists took photographs of the violence, members of the JCD turned on them, beating them, grabbing their cameras, and confiscating their film, according to the English-language newspaper The Daily Star.
JCD members also attacked the offices of Dhaka University's journalism department, beating down the door of the chairman, Golam Rahman, and ransacking the office of senior professor Arefin Siddique, according to the United News of Bangladesh (UNB), the national news wire service.
Opposition representatives accused the police of standing by while the JCD attacked the students and journalists, doing nothing to defend them.
Campus groups, including the Dhaka University Journalists Association, condemned the violence, and called for the arrest and expulsion of JCD members responsible for the attacks.
The president of the JCD, Shahabuddin Laltu, denied responsibility for the assaults, claiming that those responsible for the violence against the journalists were "outsiders," according to the UNB.
Clashes between rival political activist groups frequently break out on the Dhaka University campus. Tensions have heightened in recent days in the wake of the grenade attack on Awami League head Sheikh Hasina as she was leaving a rally in protest of another bomb attack in August.
OCTOBER 2, 2004
Updated: November 4, 2004
Diponkar Chakrabarty, Durjoy Bangla
KILLED – UNCONFIRMED
Assailants wielding knives and traditional axes brutally murdered Chakrabarty, executive editor of the Bangla-language daily, Durjoy Bangla, late the night of October 2.
Chakrabarty, a veteran journalist who also helped lead several press groups, was on his way home in Sherpur, a town in the Bogra district of the northeastern Rajshahi Division, when as many as five assailants ambushed and decapitated him, local journalists told CPJ. Witnesses heard Chakrabarty's cries and the sound of motorcycles as the assailants fled the scene, according to local news reports.
While some local journalists say they are convinced that Chakrabarty was killed in retaliation for his journalistic work, others cite his work as a Hindu activist and a land dispute at a nearby temple as a possible motive. Police told Agence France-Presse that the killers were likely "professional," while the Press Trust of India wire service reported that police suspected left-wing extremist groups.
A journalist since the 1970s, Chakrabarty was vice president of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists, and president of several local journalist associations. Local journalists were shocked by the brutality of the attack, and newspapers ran blank front pages in protest of Chakarabarty's murder.