By Jaangir Alam Akash, In Bangladesh, press freedom is facing attack by the lawmakers of the ruling party, the Awami League. One after another, journalists have been attacked by members of the ruling party, but the government hasn’t taken any action against them. The killing, torture and oppression of journalists are all common in Bangladesh. The present government made a commitment to the people to provide for free mass media. But its actions haven’t followed its commitment.
The latest Patuakhali incident aside, there has been a recent rise in harassment, either in the form of physical torture or filing false cases. At least 130 journalists have fallen prey to various types of harassment since January. Two journalists were killed, 46 injured, 11 assaulted, 13 attacked, one abducted, 43 threatened and three sued in the past eight months up until August. Unidentified terrorists at Mirer Bazar in Gazipur killed the executive director of Samprotik Somoy, Ahsan Bari, on August 26. A total of 25 journalists have been killed in last 16 years in Bangladesh.
After receiving naked threats, two journalists from Patuakhali and Chuadanga fled their home districts with their families. The flown journalists are Israt Hossain Lipton from Patuakhali and Shah Alam from Chuadanga. Both of them work for the Bengali daily newspaper, Prothom Alo. Furthermore, the government has withdrawn the cases against members of the ruling party on the grounds of being politically motivated by the former caretaker government. Yet, the politically motivated and fabricated cases against journalists filed under the same regime are still pending, even though the government declared that cases against journalists would be withdrawn.
The ruling party cadres have also kept three more journalists confined–Sankar Lal Das, Patuakhali correspondent for the Prothom Alo and ABC Radio; Khondokar Delwar Jalali, Patuakhali correspondent for Channel One; and Hanjala Shihab, Patuakhali correspondent for Digonta TV–in an attempt to prevent them from covering the issue of “river grabbing,” where influential people encroach upon and take control of the river, to the detriment of others. The Benapol correspondent of the Daily Sangbad, Debul Kumar Das, was seriously injured by a group of criminals at Benapol in Jessore on Aug. 13, 2009.
In Chuadanga, the Amar Desh correspondent, Dalim Hossain, has been put behind bars after a party lawmaker, Solaiman Haque Joarder Salon, and his brother, the mayor of the municipality, Reazul Islam, filed a case on September 1 against 80 people, including two journalists, Dalim Hossain and Shah Alam of the Prothom Alo.
Mr. Motiur Rahman, a prominent pioneering journalist and the editor of the Prothom Alo, wrote a column about the present situation of press freedom in Bangladesh. (Source: Prothom Alo, Sept. 17, 2009). I congratulate him on his informative write-up. Under the BNP-Jamaat regime, hundreds of journalists were brutally tortured, and many were killed.
Mr. Rahman is very well-known. He has played a prominent role in the media world in Bangladesh for a long time. When the journalists of the Prothom Alo were attacked, he raised his voice against the repression of journalists.
Under the past caretaker government, many journalists were brutally tortured by the army. Even cartoonist Arifur Rahman of the Prothom Alo was arrested, due to pressure from Islamic groups. Tasneem Khalil of the Daily Star was brutally tortured by the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence. And I was also illegally arrested, detained, and inhumanely tortured by the RAB under the same regime. Still, I have been facing two false and fabricated cases. I was victimized by four fabricated and politically motivated cases under the caretaker government.
Our hope is that the government protect the freedom of the press, according to their commitment. Without press freedom, we can’t even imagine a democracy. So, for peace, rule of law and democracy, it is essential to safeguard press freedom. We have to demand that the government please bring to the justice all the perpetrators of killings and torture and protect human rights, democracy, peace, rule of law and the constitution. We don’t want “MPism”, but we want to have peace, rule of law, real democracy, equality and justice.