Protest Over Attack on Reporter After Deaths Threats from Bangladesh Extremists

The International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest organisation of journalists, has protested to the Government of Bangladesh after an assassination attempt on journalist Belal Chowdhury and death threats against four other reporters by Islamic fundamentalists in Faridpur. The IFJ Asia-Pacific Regional Office has taken the case up. The IFJ has written to prime minister Khaleda Zia, protesting over the attacks, and pressing for a full investigation.

Chowdhury, a reporter with the local newspaper Dainik Thikana, was attacked and beaten unconscious in a Faridpur market on 24 August by five people armed with machetes and axes. He remains in a serious condition in hospital. Police have not made any arrests so far.

The attack followed death threats made by the Tuhidi Janata Islamic fundamentalist group against a group of local journalists who are supportive of a local theatre group that the Tuhidi Janata have deemed blasphemous. The theatre group has been harassed by the Tuhidi Janata and many of its actors have now gone into hiding, fearing for their safety.

On 23 August, fundamentalists began targeting journalists from the national dailies Janakantha, Bhorer Kagoj, Prothom Alo and Ajker Kagoj, who had reported the attacks, and voiced their support for the theatre group. In his newspaper, Chowdhury had been openly critical of the fundamentalists' threats against the theatre group.

"Journalists who openly defend the right to free expression must be able to do so without intimidation," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "We insist that authorities in Bangladesh condemn these attacks and bring those responsible to justice."