Violence against the press on the rise

New York, June 2, 2005—Police, political leaders, and criminals violently attacked over a dozen journalists in five separate incidents across Bangladesh in recent days.

On May 26, a criminal gang attacked Manunur Rashid Rabi, correspondent for the daily Nayadiganto, in the eastern town of Gangni, police said. The attack was in retaliation for his articles about drug-related activities, the English-language daily The Daily Star reported. The gang ambushed Rabi and beat him in the head with a stick. He was listed in critical condition at a local hospital, according to The Daily Star.

On May 27, baton-wielding riot police on the Dhaka University campus beat seven photographers and cameramen who were covering protests over the traffic-related death of a student, international and local news agencies reported. During clashes between the police and students, police targeted and attacked photographers Wahid Hassan Raja of the daily Bhorer Kagoj, Nayeem Parvez of the daily Amar Desh, Shamim Mansur of the daily Jugantor, Kajol Hazra of daily Samakal, as well as an unidentified photographer from the English-language daily The Independent, and cameramen Tarikul Islam Pintu of ATN Bangla television and Abdur Rab of Channel I television. All the photographers and cameramen wore press cards that publicly identified them as working journalists.

Fighting between rival student political groups on the campus intensified the next day. Activists from Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD), the student wing of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) injured three more unidentified journalists at work, The Independent reported.

Also on May 28, a senior reporter for the national daily Prothom Alo was beaten by police in the town of Narsingdi near Dhaka, local sources reported to CPJ. Arifur Rahman was trying to enter the town’s BNP office to cover the day’s activities when one police officer barred his way. When Rahman protested, the officer called over several other policemen who slapped and beat the reporter with batons. Rahman received medical care for back pain after the attack.

On May 30, BNP leader Abu Sayed Chand from the northeastern city of Rajshahi invited a reporter for the daily Ajker Kagoj to his office to discuss a recent article critical of Chand. When the reporter, Nawroz Faisal Bidyut, arrived, Chand assaulted and verbally abused him, according to a report in The Daily Star.

“This disturbing pattern of physical violence in Bangladesh is disrupting the free flow of information and putting our colleagues’ lives at risk,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “Those responsible for these recent attacks must be held accountable in a court of law.”

For members of the press, Bangladesh is one of the most violent countries in Asia and was featured in CPJ’s recent report “Marked for Death.”