IFJ Warns Bangladesh over Attacks on Media as Political Crisis Deepens

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has warned that attacks on journalists in Bangladesh, who have come under fire by security forces enforcing a curfew imposed on the capital Dhaka, will only deepen the political crisis enveloping the country.

“The crisis will not diminish through a policy of intimidation, detention and harassment of local journalists,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “This sort of reign of terror by police and security forces will only encourage self-censorship, and increase rumour and speculation within the community at large.”

The IFJ warning comes as security forces tried to make effective the indefinite curfew imposed yesterday in the capital, Dhaka, and five other cities. The IFJ says that warnings to media from members of the interim government and from the military have created “fear and uncertainty” within media and among journalists.

“There must be an end to all forms of interference and threats to media,” said White. He said that despite assurances to media people that they could report freely there had been numerous reports of beatings and detentions of journalists.

According to the New-York based Committee to Protect Journalists, among those reportedly assaulted over the past two days were Anis Alamgir, head of the news department at Baishakhi TV; Kamrul Hasan Khan, a correspondent for the Daily Star newspaper; Kazi Saifuddin Avi and Rashed Ali, reporters for the daily Bhorer Kagoj; Nesar Ahmed, a reporter for the daily Amar Desh; Sabbir Mahmud, a reporter for the daily Korotoa; Jahangir Alam, of the United News of Bangladesh wire service; Babul Talukder, a photographer from the daily Dinkal; Sanaul Haque, a photographer for the daily New Age; Ainul Haque Royal, a reporter for the newspaper Bangladesh Today, and a photographer for the same daily identified only as Babu. The daily newspaper Samakal reported that 14 of its journalists were beaten up by members of the security forces.

The IFJ says that remarks yesterday by government adviser Mainul Hosein warning media about emergency regulations in force and calling on them to be “responsible” could only make matters worse. “When a senior government official starts telling media what they can and cannot publish or broadcast there is a real danger of censorship being imposed,” said White. “There is a reality that must be reported and this can be done professionally and with due regard to ethical principles without government interference.”

The IFJ and other press freedom groups are concerned that following the warnings private television channels stopped carrying reports about the street demonstrations, suspending even the popular political discussion programs about the day’s news.

According to reports two channels, Ekushey Television and CSB TV, received written warnings from the Press Information Department warning them not to broadcast “provocative” news.

For more information contact the IFJ at 32 2 235 2207

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide