Violent attacks on the press continue

New York, July 14, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned by a recent series of violent attacks on journalists in Bangladesh, including a gang assault on a reporter inside a local press club.

Rafiqul Islam, a correspondent for daily Amar Desh in the northwestern town of Rajshahi, was assaulted on July 6 by a group of men he identified to local reporters as activists of the ruling party’s student wing, Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD). As many as 10 attackers entered the Durgapur Press Club, where the journalist serves as president, at 10:30 a.m., according to local sources. The assailants also beat the club’s general secretary, Nurul Islam, when he tried to intervene. Rafiqul was hospitalized in Durgapur Health Center and suffered back pain and breathing problems, according to local sources.

The week before he was attacked, Rafiqul filed a complaint with local police about repeated threats from members of JCD, according to local news reports. The activists warned Rafiqul to be careful after he reported on alleged extortion by JCD cadres.

No arrests were immediately made in the July 6 attack, and Rafiqul told local sources that a JCD cadre went to the hospital to warn him against filing charges.

In the capital Dhaka the next day, at least nine photojournalists from national publications were injured, some of them seriously, while protesting the alleged mistreatment of their colleagues at the hands of National Security Intelligence (NSI) personnel earlier in the day. Two photographers of the daily Janakantha were brought into custody and physically abused in the early afternoon after one, Enamul Kabir, took pictures of the outside of the NSI facility, according to local reporters. When colleagues gathered in protest outside the offices, NSI officers beat them in full view of local police, one of the injured reporters told the Dhaka-based newspaper The Daily Star.

Journalists across Bangladesh protested the violence this week. “We want an end to attacks on journalists,” A.K.M. Mohsin, president of the Bangladesh Photo Journalists’ Association, told The Daily Star.

These two recent attacks follow weeks of threats and violence against Bangladeshi journalists. On June 28, four men identified as cadres of Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB), an outlawed Islamic militant group headed by Bangla Bhai, attacked Shafiqul Islam on his way to the Bagmara Press Club in Rajshahi, according to The Daily Star. Shafiqul is a Janakantha correspondent who had been helping other journalists report on the activities of the JMJB, according to local news reports.

Police later arrested Bangla Bhai follower Moshiur Rahman Peter in connection with the attack, The Daily Star reported on July 3. It is unclear whether he was charged with a crime.

On June 28, Janakantha reported threats against Nazneen Akhter, a reporter for the newspaper in Dhaka, after her coverage of JCD activities at a women’s college. Also on June 28, journalists at the regional offices of three national newspapers—Jugantor, Ittefaq and Prothom Alo—received death threats from a group of Jatiya Party cadres following a report on the visit of party chairman H.M. Ershad to Rangpur, according to local news reports. The next day, Jatiya Party activists burned copies of the three dailies in protest, according to The Daily Star

“Violence against the press is a major threat to the functioning of civil society in Bangladesh,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “Journalists should not have to risk physical attack by security officers or others just to report the news. We call on authorities to find and prosecute those responsible for these acts of violence”