IN Media Freedom | 14/04/2002


In a letter addressed today to Mohammad Nasim, minister of Home Affairs in Bangladesh, Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders - RSF), expressed concern about the new wave of violence against the press, and notably about the implication of militants of Awami League (party in power) in these attacks.

The organization asked the minister to do everything possible to identify and punish those responsible for these attacks. "The government has to take strong measures to guarantee the security of press professionals. Otherwise, this violence does not bode well for the climate in which the general elections in October 2001 will take place," declared Robert Ménard, general secretary of RSF. "The impunity that members of this ruling party, responsible for attacks against the journalist, enjoy is shocking," he added.

According to information obtained by RSF, the office of the Dainik Juger Alo was the target, on 22 June 2001, of an attempted bomb attack in Rangpur. Police defused the bomb. The Dainik Juger Alo newspaper, very critical of the government, is published from Rangpur, and the paper¹s owner is a former MP of the Bangladesh National Party (BNP, opposition). The bomb was discovered shortly after Zhaleda Zia, leader of the BNP, arrived in Rangpur for a round of meetings.

The same day, officials of the student wing of the Awami League threatened vendors of the Dainik Dinkal, organ of the BNP, and the Dainik Inqilab, a pro-Islamic daily, with "dire consequences". These government supporters blame the two newspapers for their coverage of the bomb attack of 16 June 2001, at the Awami League office in Naryanganj, which killed twenty-two and injured more than one hundred people.

Five days before, members of the Awami League in Barisal attacked the newspaper Ajker Kagoj. They seized and burned copies of the paper in the street and threatened to ban the sale of Ajker Kogoj by force. Also, newspaper staff received death threats by phone. The newspaper recently published articles on internal rivalries in the party. In order to prevent another attack, the police are protecting the newspaper¹s offices in Barisal and Dhaka.

In the last ten days, three journalists were attacked or threatened with death by opposition groups and local Mafia.

On 16 June, unknown people came to Mohammad Shahidul Islam`s home twice. This journalist, a correspondent for Dainik Jugantor in Senbagh, was out at the time, but the attackers assaulted his family and threatened to return and kill him. Mohammad Shahidul Islam recently published articles on the activities of a group of hooligans linked with local politicians. The journalist asked for police protection.

On 20 June, an underground Islamist group conveyed death threats to the photographer Shahjaban Hossain Badshah of the Dainik Sonali Sangbad published in Rajshabi. A message appeared on his mobile phone: "This is your last warning! You will be killed in the next seven days.² It was send by a mysterious "Taleban group".

Finally, on the night of 23 June, Monir Hossain, a journalist with Dainik Ajker Barta and correspondent of Bangladesh Television (BTV) in Barisal, was followed by three men riding motorbikes who attacked him with homemade bombs. He managed to escape and get back to his

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