New York, April 11, 2023—Bangladeshi authorities must swiftly and impartially investigate the attack of freelance journalist Ayub Meahzi, hold all perpetrators to account, and ensure the journalist’s safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
On the afternoon of Tuesday, April 4, a group of around 10 men associated with a local criminal group beat Meahzi with machetes, iron rods, and sticks, at the computer training institute that he operates in the Chandanaish administrative region of the southeast Chattogram district, according to The Daily Star and the journalist, who spoke with CPJ by phone.
The men then threw Meahzi off the roof of the two-story building, according to those sources and CCTV security footage of the incident reviewed by CPJ. The men also smashed Meahzi’s two mobile phones, vandalized the institute—breaking and looting computers—and stole 50,000 taka (US$467) in cash, he said. Meahzi said he was hospitalized and sustained numerous injuries, including a fracture to his back, three broken ribs, and a head injury from being hit with a machete. He was released from the hospital.
Meahzi told CPJ that he believes the attack was retaliation for his recent reporting, including a December 30, 2022, Daily Janobani newspaper print article, which CPJ reviewed, and a March 10, 2023, Daily Janobani report, both of which alleged that local government officials with ties to the criminal group had engaged in hill-cutting, which is soil excavation and selling that negatively impacts the environment, in the Dohazari area of Chandanaish. Meahzi, who also has reported for The Daily Shangu newspaper, also informed the local government administration about the hill-cutting, leading to a fine on the perpetrators, according to the journalist and his reporting.
“The attack on Bangladeshi reporter Ayub Meahzi reflects the dangerous atmosphere for journalists reporting on actions detrimental to the environment,” said Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Authorities must immediately and thoroughly investigate this heinous attack and take steps to reverse a dangerous trend of impunity regarding violence against journalists.”
Chandanaish police initially declined to register a complaint filed by Meahzi’s father about the incident, Meahzi said, adding that police only registered the complaint around nine hours later, following the intervention of the Chandanaish Press Club.
Anwar Hossain, Chandanaish police officer-in-charge, told CPJ via messaging app that the complaint was registered without any delay and the investigation was ongoing.
A man who Meahzi said was not involved in the attack was arrested shortly following the incident and then released on bail. Meahzi added that he believed police targeted that man because he is Rohingya, and wanted to delay pursuing the real perpetrators behind the attack.
Hossain said the man was identified by CCTV footage and by Meahzi’s brother. Meahzi denied that his brother identified that man to the police.
Two additional suspects, including the head of the criminal group, were arrested on Monday, April 10, and sent to jail following a court order on Tuesday, April 11, according to Meahzi and Hossain. The two suspects remain in jail as of late April 11.
In December, Bangladeshi journalist Abu Azad was abducted and severely beaten in the Rangunia region of Chattogram district after photographing brick kilns that were allegedly operating illegally.