TV journalist in Bangladesh claims threat from police commander

New York, May 4, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists is troubled by a claim that a television journalist was threatened by an elite police force commander after reporting on a police raid on the home of a political activist.
Jahangir Alam Akash, a reporter for CSB News, said he was threatened over the telephone after reporting on the raid on the house of Benjir Ahmed, in the northwestern city of Rajshahi on Wednesday. Ahmed was shot and wounded. About 30 minutes after the raid Akash had interviewed Ahmed’s wife, Mina, who had witnessed the shooting along with the couple’s young daughter, Prianka.

On Thursday evening, soon after his exclusive report aired, Akash told CPJ he was threatened by Major Rashidul Hasan Rashid, the leader of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) group that carried out the raid. The RAB, an anticrime and antiterrorism group, was established in 2004 under the direct supervision of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Human rights groups have frequently accused it of using abusive tactics. Rashid denied threatening the reporter.

“Rashid was angry and told me that my report was an antistate activity,” Akash told CPJ. Akash said Rashid told him he would “take action” if Akash or CSB camera crews “interfere” with RAB activities.

“I feel unprotected, and my pregnant wife and I have moved into another district outside Rajshahi. We do not know when we can return home,” Akash said.

When contacted by CPJ at RAB headquarters in Rajshahi, a man who identified himself as Major Rashid said he had contacted Akash but denied making threats. “You believe any reporter who calls you and complains?” he answered when asked if he had made the threats. “Ask any reporter here and you will learn we have good relations with the press,” the man said.