In Bangladesh, press attacked with explosives

New York, March 13, 2013–Authorities in Bangladesh must immediately investigate attacks on a journalist’s car and a local press club that occurred within a day of each other, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The attacks took place amid massive politicized strikes and demonstrations that have swept the country.

“The authorities must intervene swiftly to stop these incidents of intimidation through violence,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “It is vital that in these turbulent times journalists in Bangladesh are able to work safely and freely.”

Unidentified men on Monday threw homemade explosives at the car of Nayeemul Islam Khan, a prominent editor of the Bengali-language national daily Amader Orthoneeti, news reports said. The journalist and his wife, Nasima Khan Monti, were driving back to their home at night after attending a wedding, news reports said. The car’s windows were shattered in the attack, reports said. Khan and his wife sought treatment at a local hospital for face and chest injuries, the reports said.

Mainul Islam Khan, Khan’s brother and co-director of the press freedom group the Bangladesh Centre for Development, Journalism and Communication, told CPJ by email that Khan’s car was attacked by at least six bombs, three of which hit the car. Monti, who is also an associate editor of a Bengali news portal and a newsroom editor for ATN News, sustained severe injuries, Khan’s brother said.

Khan told local journalists that he believed it was a planned attack and that individuals critical of his politicized comments on recent TV talk shows could have been behind the attack, news reports said. The country has been mired in protests over the past month after an Islamist leader was given a life term for war crimes during the 1971 war of independence. In what has come to be known as the “Shahbagh movement,” protesters have demonstrated against the prison term and called for the death penalty instead. Islamist parties and their allies have also held rallies of their own and called for strikes. Several journalists have reported being attacked amid the unrest.

The day after the attack on Khan’s car, unidentified assailants threw three homemade explosives at the offices of the Chittagong Press Club, where local journalists had gathered to be briefed on an upcoming rally by members of the Shahbagh movement. One individual was injured. An activist told local journalists that he believed supporters of an Islamist party had carried out the attack. No group has taken responsibility.

Homemade explosives have detonated during strikes called by opposition parties. Two explosives were recovered on Tuesday by police near a war crimes court in Dhaka, according to news reports.

  • For more data and analysis on Bangladesh, visit CPJ’s Attacks on the Press.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This alert has been corrected to reflect that Khan’s car was not marked with a “Press” sign and that at least six bombs were thrown at the journalist’s car, three of which hit the car.