By Jahangir Alam Akash, Everyday, the suppression of the media and freedom of speech is becoming more apparent in Bangladesh. I would like to draw a picture of the destruction of Bangladeshi media from my own perspective.
I have been facing at least three false extortion charges, which are fabricated. In my work, I have on numerous occasions disclosed the atrocities of the Rapid Action Battalion in cases involving human rights violations. Due to my investigative reporting into extrajudicial killings, corruption, militancy, and the violation of human rights, I am now facing false extortion cases, one after another.
Being a journalist and human rights activist, I was victimized and was tortured by the RAB for my professional activities. On Dec. 1, 2006, the RAB murdered Ahsan Habib Babu, a Chatra League student leader from Durgapur. On May 2, 2007, an accused terrorist, Mohammad Benazir of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party was shot by the RAB in his bedroom, in front of his wife and daughter. On May 16, 2007, the RAB tortured Sahebul Islam, a prison guard. The RAB also killed a local Workers Party leader, Kamrul Islam alias Majnu Sheikh, in a lychee garden at Choto Bangram in Rajshahi on May 18, 2007.
I reported these incidents on CSB News, Radio German Deutsche Welle, and in the daily, Sangbad. When Benazir was shot, it was reported by me on CSB News. None of the RAB personnel who were involved in the alleged operation agreed to give statements in front of a television camera regarding the incident. In the evening, I send the report to our head office in Dhaka from our bureau office in Rajshahi. In a news bulletin broadcasted at 1:00 a.m. the following morning, the report was broadcast.
Then, at 9:33 p.m. that evening, I received a call from RAB officer Major Rashidul Hasan Rashid. soon as I As soon as I picked up the phone, the caller asked me why the broadcasting of the news piece about the RAB’s operation was stopped after being aired only twice. In reply, I told him that “it is up to the head office.”
Major Rashid became annoyed with me and said, “You broadcasted this report intentionally.” I replied, “It is my professional duty, nothing more than that.” He asked, “Why did you broadcast someone crying and the statements of Benazir’s wife and daughter?” In response, I asked him, “Do you want to know it officially?”
At this stage, Major Rashid became very rude. I cannot mention the words he shouted at me in our language, since the language was very bad. He was outraged and said, “If you fail to give the right answer about why you broadcast the report, then I shall take actions against you.” I said, “I have not committed any crime.” Major Rashid asked again, “Why did the other TV channels not broadcast the same report? You did it intentionally and your actions belong to ‘anti-state activity’.”
He also said, “Make sure that you, any of your colleagues, and the CSB News camera are never seen within the jurisdiction and activities of the RAB. If they are, then the RAB will take action against you.” After that, he hung up. I complained to the Asian Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International regarding this threat. Then an investigation was commissioned.
After giving a detailed report, I signed my written statement, which was received with signature and official chop by the reader to assistant police commissioner in Boalia, Rajshahi on July 3, 2007. Mr. Golam Mostofa, the field officer of the National Security Intelligence questioned me regarding the said intimidation and threats, on July 15, 2007.
Then, at around 6:00 p.m. on July 22, 2007, Mr. Moyeen, an inspector of the Special Branch of the city of Rajshahi visited my office and took my statement. Inspector Moyeen also asked about the threat I felt, and I replied that the RAB is involved in extrajudicial killings and I feared that I could become the victim of such a killing. I reported that I have been continuing my work, but I still worried that the RAB or his men might target me for further harassment or intimidation.
On April 9, 2002, and again on Dec. 17, 2006, I reported about the corruption in the management of the Delwar Hossain Waqf estate in Rajshahi. On March 4, 2000, I reported about Mahfuzul Alam Loton, the son of Motawali Abdus Samad, and his gang’s terrorist activities. On April 25, 2007, my report on the corruption of this estate was broadcast on CSB News.