New York, February 11, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the brutal assault on Iqbal Hasan, the local correspondent of the daily Janakantha. On Monday, February 9, armed supporters of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) attacked the journalist in the northwestern city of Natore.
Hasan, 48, was called out of his house that morning by a group of as many as 20 BNP activists, according to the national newspaper The Daily Star. The group forced Hasan into a nearby government building, where they savagely beat him with their fists and rifle butts until a crowd gathered and begged the group to spare his life, according to witness accounts in The Daily Star. Hasan suffered head wounds but was unable to go to the hospital because of threats from BNP members, according to local news reports.
In interviews with the local press, Hasan said he was targeted in reprisal for an article he had written describing the February 7 arson attacks by BNP members on the homes of opposition Awami League supporters.
Violence erupted in Natore after local groups—including the BNP’s youth wing the Jatiyatabadi Jubo Dal—called a strike on February 7 to protest the recent murder of Jubo Dal leader Sabbir Ahmed Gama.
A group of BNP activists and members of Gama’s family entered Natore that morning in search of people thought to be responsible for Gama’s murder, according to local news reports. When the group did not find the people they were looking for, they went on a rampage, looting businesses and torching the homes of opposition Awami League members. The arson attacks and violence in Natore was still ongoing today, according to local news reports.
Other journalists covering the violence were also attacked: Photojournalists Selim Jahangir, of the daily Janakantha, and Azharuddin (some Bangladeshis use only one name), of the daily Prothom Alo, were reportedly threatened by BNP activists while taking pictures; Shibli Noman and Nazrul Islam Zulu, a reporter and photographer, respectively, with the local daily Ajker Kagoj, were allegedly attacked by BNP members, according to The Daily Star.
"We are outraged by the brutal assault on our colleague Iqbal Hasan," said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. "The people responsible for this crime must be held accountable."