July 12, 2002 Her Excellency Khaleda Zia
Prime Minister, People's Republic of Bangladesh
Office of the Prime Minister
Via facsimile: 011-88-02-811-3244 Your Excellency:
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing to request information about the status of the police investigation into the alleged kidnapping of Shukur Hossain, crime reporter for the Khulna-based newspaper Anirban. Hossain, who has been missing since July 5, is feared dead.
At around midnight on July 5, a group of about 35 armed men kidnapped Hossain from his home in Ula, a village near the town of Dumuria in Khulna District. Police suspect the assailants belong to the outlawed Biplobi Communist Party, one of several guerrilla groups active in the southwest.
Hossain was last seen alive on the banks of the Ghangrail River, according to The Daily Star, an English-language, national-circulation daily. Shots were fired, according to two villagers who were in the area at the time, but police could not confirm whether Hossain was killed.
Bangladesh's crime-ridden southwestern region is the most dangerous area in the country for journalists. On March 2, Harunur Rashid, a crime reporter for the well-regarded regional newspaper Dainik Purbanchal, was shot dead as he was riding his motorcycle to work in Khulna. Local journalists believe Rashid was killed for his reporting on links between criminal syndicates and outlawed leftist guerrilla groups.
On April 17, 2001, masked men kidnapped Nahar Ali, who, like Shukur Hossain, worked as a reporter for Anirban in the town of Dumuria. Ali's assailants stabbed him, beat him severely, and broke his hands and legs before abandoning him on the outskirts of his village, according to police. He died shortly before midnight on April 21, while undergoing treatment for his injuries at Khulna Medical College Hospital. Local journalists and police said that Ali was likely targeted by left-wing militants angered by his reporting on their illegal activities.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues worldwide, CPJ is alarmed by the dangers facing journalists in Bangladesh. The constant threat of violence undermines press freedom and therefore profoundly strains the foundations of your country's democracy.
We respectfully urge Your Excellency to declare an end to the culture of impunity and to ensure that the perpetrators of crimes against journalists are brought swiftly to justice.
CPJ would like to be kept informed about the status of the police investigation into Shukur Hossain's abduction, and about prosecution efforts in the murders of Harunur Rashid and Nahar Ali.
We thank you for your attention to these important matters, and await your response.