IFJ Fears for Safety of Journalists in Bangladesh in Wake of Media Attacks

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, today expressed concern over an alarming pattern of attacks against the media in Bangladesh following the abduction and murder of Kamal Hossain, who is the third journalist to be killed in Bangladesh since the beginning of this year.

"Three journalists killed and several more attacked during this year is a telling statement about the status of journalists’ safety and press freedom in Bangladesh," said IFJ President Christopher Warren.

According to our information, masked assailants abducted and murdered journalist Kamal Hossain, 32, of the daily Ajker Kagoj, on 22 August. When armed men burst into Hossain's home on the night of 21 August, he hid in the loft. But after they threatened to kill his two-year-old son, Hossain gave himself up. Police found the journalist's body a few hours later two kilometres from his home.

His wife said that Hossain, who was also secretary general of the Manikchhari press club, had recently received death threats. He had been investigating cases linked to organised crime. A few days before his murder he had helped police to identify some gang members.

Journalists in Bangladesh are frequently the target of brutal attacks by political militants, criminal gangs or religious extremists.

Since 18 August, Prothom Alo, the largest circulated Bangla daily has received threats from several Islamist organisations angered by the newspaper's exposure of Middle East funding for Islamic seminaries (madrasas). The stories published in five instalments in the Prothom Alo from 14-18 August, 2004, reported that militant Islamists were being trained in numerous madrasas and mosques in greater Chittagong region in Cox's Bazar, Bandarban etc. This is the first investigative press report of its kind in Bangladesh on militant Islamist activities in the country.

Islamist organisations like Islami Oikkya Jot (Islamic United Front), Islami Sashantontro Andolon (Islamic Constitution Movement), Qoumi Madrasa Hefajot Committee (Committee for Protection of Private Islamic schools), Hat Hazari Madrasa Authority and others burnt copies of Prothom Alo in the capital city Dhaka, Chittagong, Hat Hazari and Cox's Bazar, and also tried to attack local offices in Chittagong and Cox's Bazar. They have demanded the publication of Prothom Alo be banned and called for the editor and publisher to be arrested. The Government of Bangladesh’s silence on the attacks on Prothom Alo, is not an encouraging sign for fearless investigative reporting and freedom of the press.

Bangladesh continues to be one of the most dangerous places in South Asia for journalists carrying out their duty. More than five journalists were injured in grenade attacks on the Awami League opposition party rally in Dhaka on 21 August.

“The Government of Bangladesh must launch a full investigation into the murder of Kamal Hossain and threats against the Prothom Alo. The authorities must work to bring those involved to justice, as a free and independent media is central to democracy,” said Warren.

The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries
For more information please contact Christopher Warren +61 (0) 411 757 668

To view the media release on the IFJ Asia-Pacific Regional Website click here

To view the letter to the Government of Bangladesh online click here