By Jahangir Alam Akash, Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul, is a world famous and prominent journalist who is the executive editor of the oldest Bengali newspaper of Bangladesh the daily Sangbad. Recently he was told that without investigative journalism no one could exist in the field of journalism. I would like to agree with his valuable speech. But, I would like to ask him regarding an investigative journalism and the problem of Bangladesh.
If you want to continue your investigative journalism impartially or truly (with due respect professionally) on state killing-torture or human rights violation from the Bangladesh then you would be victimized illegally that no doubt. This is a great true for Bangladesh and I myself it’s an example.
I was made several investigated report on extra judicial killings, minority oppression, corruption and Islamic militancy for CSB News (TV news channel), Radio German DW and for my dear newspaper the daily Sangbad, which were broadcasted and published. By my professional activities I was obtained some enemies from a few influential political leaders and administrative officials who were affected by my reporting. And they were taken revenged against me during the emergency in 2007-2008. Only for my investigative journalism as a professional journalist now I am living an exile life. So, I want to ask him that, how the journalists would continued with investigative journalism?
Now I want to share latest situation of the press freedom in Bangladesh. Recently the English national newspaper New Age has published an alarming report on journalist’s persecution by the ruling party men. Though, the present ruling party Awami League was committed to the nation that they will ensure the freedom of press just before the last general election, even they were included this commitment into their electoral manifesto. But, now their party men even some of law makers of the ruling party were hampered the press freedom by torturing, threatening, intimidating, false and motivated cases and other various ways on the journalists.
At least 229 newsmen have reportedly come under attacks by lawmen and influential quarters, which has hampered press freedom and harmed the people’s right to know during the elected government of Sheikh Hasina that assumed office on January 6, 2009. There have been reports on torture of reporters in custody and cases filed by influential quarters against reporters in many places only to harass them, according to the New Age. It has been reported that journalists of both the print and the electronic media are facing the wrath of the ruling party activists apparently for reporting on incidents of tender manipulation, extortion, corruption, land grab and other irregularities and mismanagement. Many journalists in different areas have gone into hiding for fear of life.
In the present government regime from 6th January to till to date 229 journalists were attacked or harassed, 3 of them were killed, 71 wounded 36 assaulted and 68 threatened. On 22nd October, the Rapid Action Battalion tortured a staff reporter of the New Age, FM Masum in public and in custody. But the police till date have not registered any case in this connection. The Jatrabari police on October 24 received Masum’s complaint but declined to record it as a case. Masum, who was picked up by a RAB 10 team from his house, was critically injured. Masum is still suffering because of the injuries done by the battalion personnel. The battalion headquarters just regretted in writing and said the incident had happened because of ‘misunderstanding.’ The battalion team, was led by flight lieutenant Anisur Rahman, beat Masum up and rubbed salt to the injuries and took him to the battalion’s unit office. The officer responsible was withdrawn later to Armed Forces Division and this has remained the only action taken so far in this connection, according to official sources.
According to the newspapers of Bangladesh, M Abdullah, a special correspondent of the daily Amar Desh, was attacked by some assailants at Banani in Dhaka on 19th December, two days after a report against the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s son and her energy adviser had been published in the same newspaper. Amar Desh acting editor Mahmudur Rahman now faces around two dozen defamation cases for publishing that report. Awami League leaders gave angry reactions to the news report at a discussion the day after the report had been published.
The state minister for LGRD, Jahangir Kabir Nanak, referring to the Amar Desh editor Mahmudur Rahman, said, ‘Do not stretch us to the limit. If people get angry, you will not be able to go out in public.’
According to the newspapers reports, the media have reported on numerous incidents of such physical attack on newsmen, filing of cases against them and threat and harassment in different other forms by ruling party activists. Some incidents of attack on the houses and business establishments of district correspondents of different newspapers have also taken place during the period.
Ruling Party of Awami League lawmaker ABM Abul Kashem Master’s sons SM Al Mamun and SM Al Noman and their cousin Mahmudul Hasan Manna earlier assaulted Prothom Alo reporter Pranab Bol, photojournalist Rashed Mahmud, Sitakunda correspondent of Samakal M Sekandar and Sitakunda Press Club president Forkan Abu when they were gathering news of land grab of four shipyards at Kumira by Awami League men. Chhatra League activists on 15th January forced Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University correspondents of Amar Desh, Ittefaq, Amader Samay, Naya Diganta, Dinkal and Inqilab to leave the halls for reporting on incidents of violence and other ‘misdeeds’ of the activists of the Awami League backed students organization.
Kushtia correspondent of the ancient and progressive newspaper daily Sangbad, Mamun Reza was needed to be admitted to hospital after he had been beaten by Awami League activists on 4th February. Awami League lawmaker Sarah Begum Kabari slapped local daily newspaper Sitalakkhya’s photojournalist Sheikh Shahidul Islam Sentu in Narayanganj on 15th March. Another historical newspaper of Bangladesh the daily Ittefaq’s staff reporter and Destiny correspondent were attacked on 2nd April and correspondents of Inqilab and Bhorer Dak were assaulted by ruling party activists in Khulna for reporting on an incident of grabbing of a shrimp enclosure by local Awami League leaders and activists. Naya Diganta and Desh Bangla correspondents were on 14th May wounded by Awami League activists on the campus of Patuakhali University of Science and Technology. Chhatra League activists assaulted Amar Desh correspondent in Chittagong University on 15th May.
A team of private television channel Banglavision was attacked by Awami League activists in Munshiganj on 7th June when they went there to report on political killings. Chhatra League activists on 23rd June wounded Inqilab correspondent in Khagrachari for reporting on incidents of extortion.
Awami League activists attacked the house of Samakal correspondent at Ishwardi in Pabna on July 27 for publishing a report. Chhatra League and Juba League activists in Chuadanga on September 4 attacked the business enterprise and house of Prothom Alo correspondent Shah Alam in reaction to a report. Shah Alam and his family have reportedly taken shelter in Dhaka as the ruling party men forced them to leave the area.
The ruling party men also filed defamation cases against special correspondents Kamrul Hasan and Shah Alam of the daily Prothom Alo on September 4 and 6. Chhatra League and Juba League activists on September 1 set fire to a shop in Chuadanga, owned by Amar Desh correspondent Ariful Islam Dalim, and also burnt copies of the daily newspaper for publishing a report that angered Awami League lawmaker Solaiman Huq Joarder. They also attacked Ariful’s house, assaulted his wife and children and looted valuables. On the day, they also attacked business enterprises of Janakantha correspondent Rajib Ahmed Kochi and Prothom Alo correspondent Shah Alam in Chuadanga for publishing similar reports. They also sued Ariful and Shah Alam, along with some BNP activists, after a clash between Awami League and BNP activists. Banglavision, RTV and Diganta TV correspondents were assaulted by Awami League activists on September 9 when they were going to Galachipa to gather information on the two reporters of Prothom Alo and Amar Desh who were sued on ‘false charges.’
Jai Jai Din correspondent Shahin was attacked by ruling party activists at Sharsha in Jessore on September 13 when he was discharging his professional duty. The Sharsha police refused to register any case against the attackers. In Jhenaidah, local goons backed allegedly by the ruling party, issued a death threat to and filed a murder case against Amar Desh correspondent Sheikh Ruhul Amin on September 22 for writing a report on crimes committed by Chhatra League activists. On September 23, Borhan Uddin Rabbani, Jugantor correspondent in Shariatpur, was sued on extortion charges after a report had been published in the daily newspaper on the district Awami League organizing secretary Delwar Hossain.
Since Bangladesh became independent, about 29 journalists (including an extra ordinary writer Dr. Humayun Azad) have been killed by terrorists. And just past the day (15 January, 2010) was the murder day of patriotic journalist Manik Saha. But there has yet to be a full investigation and punishment for the killers.
Our clear demand is that, persecution and intimidation of journalists will be stopped. All false cases filed against them will be withdrawn. And should exemplary punish to the perpetrators and killers of journalists, that was the commitment of the present government.
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.