New York, July 24, 2018--The Committee to Protect Journalists today strongly condemned Sunday's attack on editor Mahmudur Rahman in Kushtia, a city in Bangladesh, and urged the authorities to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Supporters of the Bangladesh Chhatra League, a pro-government student organization, attacked and injured Rahman as he was leaving a defamation hearing in Kushtia city, Rahman told CPJ by phone from the hospital. Chhatra League denied involvement in the attack, according to Dhaka Tribune.
Rahman was the editor of the privately owned, opposition-aligned newspaper Amar Desh--before it was forced to shut down in 2013. Rahman has been jailed in the past in connection with his journalistic work.
"The attack against Mahmudur Rahman is illustrative of the environment in which journalists critical of the Sheikh Hasina government struggle to do their work," said Robert Mahoney, CPJ's deputy executive director. "Authorities must condemn and take swift action against those who attacked Rahman and bring them to justice."
Rahman had just been granted bail in the defamation case when around 100 activists assembled outside the courtroom, according to news reports. The men confined him to the courtroom for several hours and then attacked him with stones and sticks when he tried to leave, Rahman said.
Rahman said he requested police help but they were slow to respond and did not offer any first aid after the attack, despite his profuse bleeding. Rahman said he received several head injuries, including a gash on the back of his head and on his cheek, which required stitches. He said he spent one night in the intensive care unit.
Kushtia police did not immediately respond to CPJ's emailed request for comment.
Rahman is currently fighting several court cases, such as sedition charges related to his comments critical of government officials during a National Press Club event, according to the news reports.
Bangladesh's journalists face a diverse range of threats, from criminal defamation, to enforced disappearances, and intimidation from government and authorities, leading to high rates of self-censorship, CPJ has documented. CPJ has also documented how Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government has targeted opposition press.