Golam Mustofa Sarowar

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Golam Mustofa Sarowar, who worked under the name Sagar Sarowar, was found dead alongside his wife, journalist Meherun Runi, in their apartment in the capital Dhaka on February 11, 2012, according to news reports and Nowsher Roman, Runi’s brother, who spoke with CPJ by phone in May 2023.

Sarowar, 37, a news editor at the Dhaka-based Maasranga Television, had recently returned to Bangladesh from Germany, where he had worked for the German public news broadcaster Deutsche Welle. Runi was a senior reporter at the Dhaka-based ATN Bangla Television.

Police said that Sarowar had been tied up, and he and Runi had been stabbed multiple times, according to the reports. Their then-five-year-old son discovered their bodies early in the morning, leaving him deeply traumatized, said Roman, who filed the double murder case with the Dhaka police.

A February 2022 statement by United Nations human rights experts said it is “widely believed that the couple were targeted because of their investigative reporting on corruption in Bangladesh’s energy sector which they were about to publish.”

Runi likely assisted Sarowar in the investigation because she also covered the energy sector, Roman said, adding that he is unaware of any threats faced by Sarowar and Runi prior to the killings.

Sarowar’s two laptops and mobile phone, which he used for his journalistic work, were missing from the apartment following the killings and had not been recovered as of May 2023, Roman told CPJ. No other items were missing. 

Prior to his killing, Sarowar was writing a book on Bangladesh’s heavily militarized Chittagong Hill Tracts that was stored on the laptop that went missing, Bangladeshi-German journalist Arafatul Islam, Sarowar’s former colleague, told CPJ via messaging app in May 2023. Sarowar had published another book on the same topic in February 2011.

At the time of the killings, then-Home Minister Shahara Khatun promised the perpetrators would be captured within 48 hours.

In October 2012, eight months following the killings, police arrested eight suspects in the case, two of whom were released on bail in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

In February 2013, then-Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir claimed in a statement to parliament, “Journalists and common people destroyed all the important evidence from the [crime scene] before police could reach there.” 

In July 2019, the Rapid Action Battalion, an elite unit of the Bangladesh police sanctioned by the U.S. government in December 2021 for gross human rights violations, appointed Additional Superintendent Khandaker Md Shafiqul Alam as the investigating officer in the case, making him the seventh person to hold this position, Roman said.

In June 2023, a Dhaka court extended the deadline for the submission of the battalion’s probe report for a 101st time in what The Daily Star Editorial Board called a “total mockery of our justice system.”

In May 2023, CPJ called and messaged Alam and Khandaker Al Moyeen, director of the battalion’s legal and media wing, but did not receive any replies.