Washington, D.C., March 29, 2021 – Bangladesh police must ensure that officers do not harm members of the press covering protests, and should investigate attacks on journalists by demonstrators and police officers, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On March 25 and 26, in Dhaka, the capital, members of the Chhatra League, the youth wing of the ruling Awami League political party, attacked people demonstrating against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh, and used sticks to beat journalists covering the protests, according to news reports.
Also on March 26, Dhaka police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into an anti-Modi protest, hitting and injuring journalists covering the demonstrations, according to news reports.
At least 10 people were killed over those two days of protests, according to those reports. At least 17 journalists were injured by police or demonstrators, according to data shared with CPJ by the Drik Picture Library, a local advocacy group and multimedia services provider.
“Police in Bangladesh must immediately end their outrageous attacks on journalists covering protests, and should protect them from abuse rather than inflicting it themselves,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “These blatant attacks on press freedom undermine a key pillar of the country’s democracy.”
According to the data shared with CPJ, the majority of the injured journalists were photographers.
Demonstrators and police officers hit journalists with the butt of a pistol, sticks, iron rods, stones, and bricks, and journalists were shot with rubber bullets, according to that data, which stated that they sustained injuries including bruises, swelling, bleeding, broken bones, a dislocated shoulder, and a cracked skull.
CPJ emailed the Chhatra League and the Bangladeshi national police headquarters for comment, but did not receive any replies. On April 2, after publication of this article, the director-general of public diplomacy in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Harun Al Rashid, responded via an email from BGR Public Relations, blaming protesters for the violence.
Access to Facebook was also blocked during the demonstrations, according to reports, which stated that the Bangladesh government did not comment on whether it had ordered those restrictions.
Editor’s note: The penultimate paragraph has been updated with an official response.