Journalists attacked in Bangladesh Freedom of Expression under Threat By -Salman Riaz


The attack and killing of journalists in Bangladesh is a regular phenomenon and the government is merciless in its unwillingness to deliver justice for such crimes against humanity. There are many cases yet to prove who are related to these atrocities. Many years have gone, but none of such cases could be settled. We have failed to ensure justice for their departed souls and their shocked families. Most of the journalist leaders are sold to remain silent as collaborators of those incidents or are forced to remain silent because of political backup of those incidents. There’s no one to ensure the safety and security of journalist – political gangsters are free to roam around killing anyone who tries to report the truth, the police dance in the lap of a cruel establishment and the judiciary can hardly offer safeguards to journalist being held hostage by corrupt politicians and looters.
Many prominent journalists either stay silent at the serial killing of journalists or shed crocodile tears, all the while maintaining loyalty to the party in power. So no death gets closure and the killing and torturing of journalists becomes easier by each death. In this jungle of injustice the blood of journalists and the tears of their bereaved families turn into rivers of dark despair. Should we continue to be silent witnesses to such a state of fear! Silencing journalists and the media depresses any possibility of good governance, democracy and justice while autocratic anarchy rules over distressed humanity.
At recent, Abdul Hakim Shimul, Journalist of Daily Samakal was shot on 2 February, 2017, by a shotgun owned by the mayor of Shahazadpur, a north-western town of Bangladesh, while covering an armed clash there between two groups of the party in power Awami League. Shimul succumbed to his injuries and died the next day. His camera and mobile phone went missing afterwards which had photos of the violence that took place there. Hearing this shocking news, Shimul’s grandmother died of brain hemorrhage, his wife became a widow and his child an orphan, his parents lost their son and friends lost a fine soul. Shimul was regarded as a very professional and thoroughly honest journalist who entered the field to report the truth and serve the people of his country. We strongly condemn this killing which portrays the gun-and-goon political barbarism of Bangladesh. Courageous journalists like Shimul who get killed with increasing ferocity thus weakening the pillars of Bangladesh’s foundation to its very core.

Attacked on Journalists:
Journalism is a noble profession, which is considered as Fourth pillar of democracy, a governing system sometimes referred to as “rule of the majority”. But this pillar is at stake in Bangladesh, a democratic country. There are not a single case happened in any month that any journalist attacked, injured or killed. They are targeted by atrocities (who are targeted for making true news by journalists), police and also powerful politician. In addition, they are attacked or killed without rhyme during collecting news. They are also our hero, because they act like a mirror which shows the bare truth and harsh realities of life, community and state also.
At recent, Abdul Hakim Shimul, Journalist of Daily Samakal was shot dead by a shotgun owned by the mayor of Shahazadpur, Halimul Haque Miru. Only 5 days ago, 2 another journalists are beaten by police during anti-Rampal plant hartal on 27 January organized by the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports. ATN News on-Duty cameraperson Abdul Alim is being assaulted by police inside the capital’s Shahbagh Police Station that day. He says he was attacked after he had gone there to take footage of policemen beating one of the protesters during hartal against the Rampal power plant. Published photograph in media shows that one of the policemen was holding him from his front while another grabbed his hair tight before kicking his back mercilessly. On his knees and his shirt torn off, he was surrounded by several policemen and beaten up inside the Shahbagh Police Station.
As Alim’s colleague came forward to protect him, police also beat up Ishan Bin Didar, a reporter of ATN News. Alim had three stitches on his right eyebrow and Ishan too took treatment at Dhaka Medical College Hospital. Several photographs of the police torture went viral on social networks, sparking huge criticism with many demanding punishment of the policemen responsible. Meanwhile, police authorities suspended Assistant Sub-Inspector Ershad of Shahbagh Police Station for his alleged involvement in the assault. Besides, 12 other policemen were initially found involved in the incident and an inquiry was going on (During this article is being written).
Like that incident there are many cases are not solved under inquiry. The question is raised here, is this inquiry will solve and protect the right of journalist?

The case has been dusted:
On the morning of 11 February, 2012, Sagar Sarwar, the news editor of the Maasranga TV station, and Meherun Runi, a senior correspondent at TV station ATN Bangla, were found dead inside their fourth floor apartment in the West Rajabazar neighborhood of Dhaka. Their 6-year-old son, Mahir Sarwar Megh, was found unhurt. We have already passed the fifth anniversary of the stabbing deaths of these two journalists. Police still have not revealed a motive or released an investigation report into the killings of journalist couple.
On the day of the killings, then-Home Minister Shahara Khatun told reporters that the killers would be arrested within 48 hours. After 5 years, Present Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told, “At this moment, I have no knowledge on progress of the investigation”. While the six suspects have been jailed for at least four years, RAB investigators have not identified the killers or their motives. “The case has been dumped in a planned way,” Runi’s socked brother, Nawsher Ali Roman, told. During a court appearance investigating officer and RAB assistant director Wares Ali Mia failed to produce information regarding progress during a court appearance. Metropolitan Magistrate Judge Mazharul Islam granted another 6 weeks for RAB to submit a report on progress. In the past, High Court and magistrate court judges have expressed anger at the investigation’s slow pace.

23 unsolved killings:
The couple is among 23 journalists killed in Bangladesh since 1996. The list of others include Mohammad Kamruzzaman (Neel Sagar), Saiful Alam Mukul (Daily Runner), Mir Eias Hossain (Dainik Bir Darpan), Shamsur Rahman (Janakantha), Harunur Rashid (Dainik Purbanchal), Nahor Ali (Anirban), Shukur Hossain (Anirban), Syed Faruq Ahmed (Pubali Barta), Manik Chandra Saha (New Age), Humayun Kabir (Janmabhumi), Kamal Hossain (Ajker Kagoj), Dipankar Chakravarty (Durjoy Bangla), Shahid Anwar (Daily Asian Express), Sheikh Belal Uddin (Sangram), Golam Mahfuz (Comilla Muktakantha), Gautam Das (Samakal), Belal Hossain Dafadar (Janabani), Jamal Uddin (Gramer Kagoj), Talhad Ahmed Kabid (Dainik Narsingdi Bani), Sadrul Alam Nipul (Dainik Mathabhanga) and S.M. Alauddin (Ogrodoot).
Omor Faruk, president of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists told, “Many journalists were killed in the last decade, but there have been no trials against their killers”. Last week in Sirajganj district, a correspondent of Samakal, Abdul Hakim Shimul, was shot and killed by the local mayor. Investigators have said it is unclear whether Shimul was targeted or killed by accident during a confrontation between opposing political groups, according to reports. Faruk demanded a trial for Shimul’s killer. Most of cases are hanging to investigate or under trial. Perpetrators are gone away from hidden crack of justice system in Bangladesh.

Fourth pillar under threat:
It is part of job of the free press to ask hard questions — sometimes doing so leads to exposing corruption. A free press is one of the fundamental institutions of democracy. If you want to preserve democracy as we know a free press is important and it is vital part of society. Every day, journalists, press around the world put themselves at risk to provide news and information to the public. From Editor to reporters are harassed for disclosing truth against power party, politicians and growing criminals shadow under politics. Unfortunately in Bangladesh, being a journalist carries added dangers that should not be part of the job.
Recent events paint a grim picture that there are all too many reports of journalists being assaulted or even murdered, framed for crimes they did not commit, or just being subjected to harassment by the law. Mahfuz Anam, the editor of Bangladesh’s most popular English-language newspaper has faced lot of legal claims against him has climbed to 79 cases: 62 for defamation and 17 for sedition since February last year. Another prominent Journalist Mahmudur Rahman, 63, the editor of mass circulation Bengali daily Amar Desh, was accused by the governing Awami League of using his newspaper to encourage political demonstrations against a war crimes tribunal set up by the government to examine abuses allegedly committed by people who supported Pakistan during Bangladesh’s independence war of 1971.
Mahmudur Rahman, was arrested in April 2013 during a nationwide crackdown on the opposition party. He has been released on bail on 23 November, 2016 after being held in prison for more than three-and-a-half years. Such that prominent cases, there are many cases have been unearth about journalist arrest. Given the risks, it would seem that Bangladesh is no country for journalists. We need to stand up to injustices being perpetrated against the free press, and fight the climate of fear which prevents journalists from properly doing their jobs.
There is absolutely no excuse for law enforcement personnel to stand by idly as journalists get assaulted by political goons — even less so for law enforcement officers to be active participants themselves in these assaults. We have heard too many hollow promises from politicians that the attacks against journalist will stop — clearly these incidents have continued unabated. If the government were indeed doing all it could to protect journalists, this climate of fear we now find ourselves in would not persist.
When journalists are made to constantly fear for their lives, where there is no satisfactory legal follow-up to attacks on journalists, all of our basic freedoms are at stake. It is part of job of the free press to ask hard questions — sometimes doing so leads to exposing corruption, revealing the truth about various organizations, or simply expressing unpopular opinions about powerful figures. Thwarting this freedom through intimidation, violence, and harassment is undemocratic and a threat to the basic values of this nation. We therefore urge the government to act with a firm hand against those who attack journalists, and to send a strong message that this cannot continue.

Writer: Journalist and
geopolitical analyst.