By Jahangir Alam Akash, Democracy and a free media are important for each other. The people and journalists of Bangladesh have struggled for true democracy and press freedom. In 1971, Bangladesh became independent. But people lived under army rule for 17 years. The army killed the father of the nation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The self-declared killers have still not been punished. Since Bangladesh became independent, about 24 journalists have been killed by terrorists. But there has yet to be a full investigation and punishment for the killers.
I would like to draw a picture of the destruction of Bangladeshi media from my own perspective. The date of July 16 – the anniversary of the murder of a prominent journalist, Shamsur Rahman Cable – went by recently. He was killed by terrorists in his office on July 16, 2000, yet neither his family nor the community of journalists in Bangladesh has seen justice.
As a professional journalist and human rights defender, I have been working for the last 20 years. I made investigative reports against extrajudicial killings, Islamic militancy, corruption, the torture of minorities and indigenous peoples, and the torture of employees of CSB News, Radio German-DW, and The Daily Sangbad.
I am working for peace and happiness, and am fighting against state torture, including extrajudicial killings, human rights violations, and the torture of minorities and indigenous peoples, as well as fighting for freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Because of my professional work, I was victimized by the Army with a series of fabricated and politically-motivated cases, as well as illegally arrested, detained for 28 days by the Rapid Action Battalion, and brutally tortured with electric shocks. There were at least four fabricated cases against me, with two that are still active. For the last two years, I have continuously received threats from Islamic groups as well as from the RAB, so I needed to flee my country.
Without an actual democracy, the rule of law, and good governance, it’s not possible to stop acts of repression. We know that there is no actual democracy or rule of law in Bangladesh.
The community of journalists in Bangladesh is waiting for justice for their killed and tortured colleagues. I think that if Bangladesh’s society does not undergo a qualitative change, then freedom of the press is far from becoming a practical reality. It is necessary to punish those who perpetrate human rights violations and that the Bangladesh government should stop giving them impunity, for the greater interest of democracy and peace.