New York, February 11, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is gravely concerned about the safety of 11 journalists based in the northwestern city of Rajshahi who have received death threats from an underground communist group.
On February 7, a letter from Janajuddha, (People’s War), a faction of the Purbo Banglar Communist Party (PBCP), arrived at the Rajshahi Metropolitan Press Club. The letter contained death threats against the following 11 journalists: Zahangir Alam Akash, staff reporter of the daily Dainik Sangbad; Samir Kumar Dey, local correspondent of the daily Jugantor; Hasan Millat, editor of the local daily Sonali Sangbad; Prashanta Saha, assistant editor of the local daily Upachar; Anisuzzaman (who goes by one name), staff correspondent of the national daily Janakantha; Zabid Apu, photojournalist with the daily Jugantor; Anwar Ali, staff correspondent with national English-language daily The Daily Star; Anu Mustafa, local correspondent with the daily Prothom Alo; Saidur Rahman, a local correspondent for the daily Bhorer Kagoj; Abu Saleh Fatteh, of private television Channel I; and Selim 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.
"This brutal cycle of murder and death threats against journalists in reprisal for their reporting must be broken," said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. "We call on authorities to track down the people behind these crimes and threats and to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law."