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The Risks of Journalism in Bangladesh

 

cvvvA weeks prior I need composed an article regarding “digital journalism under threat in Bangladesh” when 35 online news portal has barred down by the government. In fact, not only digital journalism but entire journalism and journalists are in risk in Bangladesh. This year 5 years remembering of journalist couple Sagar-Runi. We haven’t seen any significant progress of their case while there is another journalist; Abdul Hakim Shimul lost his life during political clash. Situation is getting worse day by day. Over the last 16 years [2001-2016] total 4698 times attacked on journalists and media. Whether it is killing, torture , arrest , abducted ,sued or threatened still these incidents are threat to the journalism. Only in 2016, 53 journalists were injured and 16 journalists were assaulted in Bangladesh .  Since 1992 1229 Journalists were killed around the world while they are directly involved in their profession. According to Committee to protect journalists (CPJ) began keeping records in 1992, at least 20 journalists have been killed in Bangladesh in direct relation to their work.

A recent report published by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) observed that the dividing line between politics and journalism is “more blurred than ever” in Bangladesh. The report identified nine countries, Bangladesh among them, as experiencing a decline in press freedoms. It noted that journalists in Bangladesh were “attacked from all sides” during the political turmoil of 2013.

Sagar-Runi Tragedy – The five-year stand at 48 hours

2012 On February 11 morning, Police found journalist couple Sagar Sarwar and Meherun Runi wounded dead body at  West Raja bazar in the capital in their rented  house.At that time Sagor working at ‘MACHARANGA TV & Runi working ATN BANGLA . Their four-year-old son Mahir Sarwar Megh was home at the time of the murder. The sensation is caused by the murder. Police arrived at the scene and home minister Sahara khatun  gave 48 hours to end the investigation. The five-year stand at 48 hours.

Saturday 11 February 2012. 5 times since this day has come so far. Five years of Sagar-Runi killing has been passed. Investigation report not finalised yet. The investigation into the murder of journalist couple of extreme cases that law enforcement has failed. After taking 46 times from the court during the five years RAB is not able to submit its investigation report yet. New date 21st march 2017 has been fixed for the submission of investigation report.

The court police officer Altaf Hossain said, so far RAB has given 47th times to submit their report. RAB officials said earlier, When we unlock the mystery of the case evidence which has sent to the United States, The report is now in the hands of the RAB. But there’s DNA from two unknown men carrying the person is not identified yet. Six of the eight arrested killer are still in custody over the incident

Detective Branch (DB) has admitted their failure to the Court within 62 days of their investigation. After that court has given the case to the RAB (Rapid action Battalion). Since then RAB is investigating the case. 21 DNA testing of saliva has been sent for laboratory testing. People around the incident, relatives and colleagues a total 150 statements has been recorded. ASP Mohiuddin Ahmed said, total 130 suspect people name shortlisted for further investigation. But he did not indicate any date or time for final report.

However, until now a total of six people in prison Altogether, eight suspects have been arrested in the case.None of these 8 people have minimum involvement of this case.

The deceased’s family and relatives of Sagar-Runi angry, shocked, saying the investigation of failure completely due to negligence of authority

Daily Samakal Journalist killing

On 2 February 2017, Abdul Hakim Shimul, a journalist for the daily Samakal newspaper was reporting on a clash between two factions of the local Awami League in Shahzadpur, Sirajganj district, Rajshahi division. According to eyewitnesses, Abdul Hakim Shimul was taking photos of the clash but when the Awami League arrived at the residence of the mayor of Shahzadpur municipality, Halimul Haque Miru, the mayor emerged with a shotgun and opened fire. During the shooting, the mayor noticed Abdul Hakim Shimul while he was taking photos of the incident and subsequently shot the human rights defender. He was hit by several bullets and died on 3 February 2017 while being transported to Dhaka to receive medical treatment. Abdul Hakim Shimul had recently spoken out against the mayor’s decision to raise municipality tax which is believed to have resulted in the targeting of the human rights defender.

Detained Editor Siddiqqur Rahman

September 6, 2016 the editor-in-chief of news portal Dainikshiksha, — journalist Siddiqur Rahman Khan has been detained since September 1 after a criminal defamation complaint was filed against him under Article 57 of the 2006 Information and Communication Technology Act, Khan was arrested for publishing “fictitious, false, and shameful” news online.Under amendments made to the Information and Communication Technology Act in 2013, bail is not an option for those arrested under parts of the act, including Article 57.

Torture on Investigative Journalist Provir Sikdar

Provir Sikdar another editor and  an investigative journalist for several Bangla-language dailies over the years, In 2001, he was physically attacked after he reported on events surrounding the anniversary of the 1971 war of independence.He  posted the story to his Facebook page. The journalist said that when he went to a local police station to document the threats, the police refused to log one

News Editor Mahmudur Rahman, Shafiq Rehman & Mahfuz Anam

The Editor of daily Amar Desh, Mahmudur Rahman was finally released 23 November 2016 after three years and seven months of imprisonment.

On 16 April, members of the Detective Branch of Police, posing as journalists of Boishakhi TV, arrested senior journalist Shafik Rehman without warrant. The 82-year-old journalist was taken into 10-day remand in two intervals.

The Daily Star editor Mahfuz Anam faced 79 cases against him for allegations of sedition and defamation in different districts of the country, by the leaders and activists of the ruling party.

Daily Inqilab

Inqilab, one of the nation’s oldest Bengali language newspapers was closed “temporarily” on January 16, after the daily reported that Indian troop had taken part in a crackdown in Sathkhira.Four journalists, including Ahmed Atiq, lead reporter of the story, were arrested at the Inqilab office.

Bangla mail24

In August, Bangladeshi authorities launched criminal proceedings against three journalists with the banglamail24 news website over a story they published that refuted a rumour that the prime minister’s son, Sajeeb Wazed Joy, had been killed in a plane crash.

Fabricating existing policy

With 40 rules and regulations, covering 46 approved government and private television channels, the policy includes several clauses that demarcates boundaries that programming must not cross. It also strengthens the hand of the Information Ministry in decision making, including the issuing of broadcasting licenses. Clearly, the challenges for Bangladeshi media will continue.

The policy states that TV and radio stations should not broadcast news which is “contrary to the country’s or the public interest”, programmes which “undermine the reputation” of military or law enforcement officers or information which “can harm good relationships” with a friendly country.

Maximum penalties for convictions under Article 57 of the Information and Communications Technology Act allow for 14 years in jail for publishing material that hurts religious beliefs, offends the state or damages law and order.

Digital Security Act 2016 allows for maximum penalties of life in prison for spreading false information about the country’s 1971 war of liberation from Pakistan or national founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and seven years in prison for disturbing public order.

Jailing journalists for publishing threats made against them further undermines confidence in Bangladesh’s legal system. Journalists have been under heightened pressure from authorities when reporting critically on authorities. We should act now before its too late to react.

Reference: Committee to protect journalists (CPJ),Odhikar,The Diplomat,Al Jazeera

Gorib Hossain-journalist, researcher & columnist

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