IFJ Demands Greater Respect for Press Freedom in Bangladesh

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is appalled by the lack of tolerance for media criticism and the eroding respect for press freedom in Bangladesh after two weeks of physical attacks, death threats and legal action against journalists for doing nothing more than their jobs.

According to local reports, a total of 18 editors and journalists currently face the possibility of prison terms as a result of criminal libel suits, and journalists and the newspapers they work for have been threatened by politicians to stop reporting on government corruption.

“We are concerned that the threat of violence, legal action, and pressure from those in authority is preventing journalists from doing their job, and encourages a terrible culture of self censorship in the media,” IFJ President Christopher Warren said.

Journalist receives death threats for reporting on corruption
According to local reports, Subrata Deb Roy Sanjay, a journalist for Dainik Khabor and Dainik Sylheter Dak, was forced to flea his home on November 20 after receiving death threats from Hazi Mujib, a member of the ruling party, for reporting on Mujib’s alleged illegal business affairs.

In recent years, Mujib has allegedly filed two defamation cases against Sanjay and Sanjay has previously had his house ransacked and suffered beatings, extortion attempts and death threats from people allegedly working for Mujib.

According to local reports, Sanjay filed a case with the police regarding the death threats but no action has been taken, and he now fears for his life.

Journalists beaten during newsgathering
Four journalists, Niamul Kabir Sajal of Dainik Prothom Alo, Babul Hossain of Dainik Janakantha, Mir Golam Mostafa of Dainik Shamokal and photographer Nuruzzaman, were reportedly severely injured on November 16 by attackers, believed to have been organised by Shahjahan Sirai Babu, chairman of the Rangamatia Union Council.

According to local reports, the journalists were covering a story on threats to an Ahmandiyah religious group in Hatilet, a village under the jurisdiction of the Rangamatia Union Council, when they were brutally beaten and hospitalised.

A case has reportedly been filed with the police identifying 28 people, including Chairman Shahjahan Siraj Saju.

Attempted murder of journalist
A group of criminals armed with sharp knives reportedly attempted to kill Dainik Amar Desh and BDNews24 correspondent, Ansar Hossain, at his house in Cox’s Bazar on November 13, allegedly related to Hossain’s reports on their criminal activities.

According to local reports, Hossain survived the attack and later called for police investigation.

Attack on newspaper offices in Lakshmipur
According to local reports, a media worker, Sirajul Islam, was injured and the newsroom offices of Dainik Bhorer Malancha and Weekly Elan were vandalised by cadres of local entrepreneurs in Lakshmipur district on November 13, after the local newspapers reported on the conflict between local entrepreneurs and a labour group.

Death threat to Amar Desh correspondent
A Nezame Islam Party leader, Mufti Izharul Islam, reportedly threatened the life of Dainik Amar Desh journalist, Ma Noman, after Noman published an article entitled ‘Mufti Izhar can’t find any shelter’ on November 12.

Bangladesh influential former minister sues six publications
According to local reports, former cabinet minister Mirza Abbas reportedly brought libel suits against editors and publishers of four daily newspapers, Jugantor, Inqilab, Janakantha and Bhorer Kagoj, and two magazines, Weekly 2000 and Weekly Shirsha Kagoj with a Dhaka court on November 9, for running news items on his misuse of ministerial and political power, including land-grabbing and recruiting staff in exchange for bribes.

Journalist murder still unsolved one year later
Twelve months after the murder of Dainik Shamokal journalist, Gautam Das, the case is still unsolved. Das was reportedly killed at his office in Faridpur on November 17, 2005, after reporting on extortion, corruption and illegal arms dealings.

According to local reports, the murder case was transferred to the Speedy Trial Tribunal but has since been halted and no progress has been made to find and detain the killers.

Journalists held meetings all over Bangladesh to commemorate the anniversary of Das’ murder and to call for a fresh investigation into his death.

Journalists denied the right to report
The IFJ, representing more than 500,000 journalists in 115 countries, condemns these numerous incidents where Bangladeshi journalists have been denied the right to report intimidation, abuse and attacks from politicians, criminals and .

“A truly democratic Bangladesh cannot be achieved without greater respect for press freedom and the public’s right to information,” IFJ President Christopher Warren said.

“When journalists are beaten, harassed or threatened for their work, the very heart of democracy is compromised,” Warren said.

“Furthermore, criminal defamation, a wholly inappropriate penalty that brands journalist a criminal, must not and cannot be retained by a truly democratic state,” he said.

“The IFJ calls on the police and the government of Bangladesh for immediate action to ensure the safety of journalists, for the removal of defamation from criminal code, and for greater respect for media independence,” he said.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries