New York, August 1, 2018–The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned violence against journalists covering local elections in the Bangladesh city of Sylhet, and called on authorities to identify and hold the attackers to account. At least four journalists were beaten, allegedly by police and supporters of the ruling Awami League party, according to news reports.
“Attacking journalists for reporting on local elections is unacceptable, especially as the country prepares for national elections in coming months,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington D.C. “Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government must condemn the perpetrators and the police should immediately take action.”
The English-language Daily Star reported that people believed to be supporters of the ruling Awami League party and its student wing, the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), assaulted two of its correspondents on July 30 while they were covering city corporation elections in Sylhet. The attackers were wearing Awami League badges, according to the Daily Star. Masuk Hridoy, a district correspondent, was hit by a man while he was photographing the polling center and his camera lens was damaged, he told his newspaper.
Syed Ashfaqul Haque, the paper’s deputy executive editor, told CPJ that Hridoy received some blows to his face and his equipment was damaged, but he was not severely injured. Haque said that when other team members intervened, the paper’s Sylhet correspondent, Dwoha Choudhury, was hit and shoved around, but was not seriously injured. Haque said the paper reported the incident to the election commission.
On the same day, police allegedly hit Abdullah Al Bappi, a photojournalist at the Bangla newspaper Daily Naya Diganta, took his camera, and deleted his photos of voters, the Daily Star reported.
In a separate incident, people described in multiple news reports as BCL activists and police allegedly beat Prothom Alo correspondent Misbah Uddin while he filmed what appeared to be attempts at vote rigging. Uddin sustained injuries to his back and right hand and was taken to a medical college for treatment, according to Prothom Alo. The attackers took Uddin’s phone and returned it after deleting all videos related to vote rigging, Prothom Alo said.
Sylhet police did not immediately respond to CPJ’s request for comment via email. A phone call to the Sylhet police was disconnected.
The Awami League and Information Ministry did not immediately respond to CPJ’s request for comment via email.
The attacks come a week after CPJ condemned an assault by pro-government supporters on an editor, Mahmudur Rahman, in Kushtia.
Separately, Jibon Ahmed, a photographer for the news website Purboposhchimbd, told The Washington Post that he was beaten by other photographers and fired by the outlet after taking a photo of two people kissing in a street. Ahmed told the Post that he posted the image to social media after his editors rejected the image because they said it would provoke a negative response. Public displays of affection are considered taboo among the country’s religious conservatives. Ahmed said that on July 24 that he was “roughed up” by a group of photographers and that Purboposhchimbd fired him. An editor at the news website denied to the Post that Ahmed was fired over the photograph.