Shamsur Rahman

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BANGLADESH

Rioting kicked off a three-month electoral season in October as the ruling Bangladesh National Party (BNP) was accused of bias in the installation of an interim government and election commissioner. Fears of physical attacks against a politically divided press corps deepened along with the political crisis, as leaders of the rival Awami League threatened to boycott the general election scheduled for January 2007. Journalists were tasked with covering a time of great uncertainty: President Iajuddin Ahmed, formerly a ceremonial head, installed himself as chief of a caretaker government and warned that the military could be brought in to quell violence.
December 15, 2006

Dr. Iajuddin Ahmed
President, People's Republic of Bangladesh
Chief Advisor to the Government of Bangladesh
Bangabhaban, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Via facsimile: 88-2-9566242


Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about threats and attacks against journalists in the run-up to general elections scheduled for January 23, 2007. We urge you to do everything in your power as leader of the interim government to ensure that assaults on the press are adequately investigated and punished, and that journalists are free to report on the election campaign without fear of retribution.
The Five Most Murderous Countries for Journalists
New York, June 28, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns yesterday's murder of Humayun Kabir, editor of the Bangla-language daily Janmabhumi, who was killed in a bomb attack in the southwestern city of Khulna.

At around 12 p.m., an unidentified assailant threw two bombs at Kabir outside his home while he was exiting his car with his family, according to local news reports. Witnesses told the English-language Daily Star that the assailant, posing as a peanut seller, approached Kabir and tossed at least two homemade bombs at him, fatally injuring him in the abdomen and the legs. Kabir was taken to Khulna Medical College Hospital and died soon after. Kabir's son Asif also suffered minor injuries on his legs and was treated at a local clinic.
In 2003, Bangladesh was one of the most violent countries in the world for journalists, with almost daily cases of physical assaults and intimidation--particularly in rural areas. Local journalists say they are increasingly under threat for reporting on political violence, graft, and organized crime, but that the main cause of brutality against the press in Bangladesh is pervasive corruption.
Dhaka, March 5, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) today called upon the government of Bangladesh to vigorously investigate and prosecute all those who murder, assault, or threaten the country’s journalists, in order to end a long cycle of violence against the media and enable journalists to do their jobs safely.

During a press conference in Dhaka at the end of a week-long fact-finding mission, a CPJ delegation said that those who try to silence journalists must be held accountable. Without justice—for those who attack journalists, as well as those who order such attacks—violence will continue and so will Bangladesh’s reputation as the most violent country in Asia for journalists.
New York, June 27, 2003— The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the recent violent attack on Abul Bashar, the local correspondent for the Bengali-language national daily newspaper Janakantha (The People's Voice) in Shariatpur district, which is located in southern Bangladesh.

According to several local sources and Bashar, himself, members of the Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD), a student group associated with the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), forcibly kidnapped Bashar from his office on June 19. They took him to the district BNP headquarters where armed members of the party shot at him with firearms and brutally beat him, causing injuries to his backbone, skull, and eyes.
In 2001, the anti-corruption watchdog group Transparency International ranked Bangladesh the most corrupt country in the world. The almost complete collapse of law and order in the country was seen as one of the prime reasons behind the fall from power of the Awami League.

The year began with a brutal attack on a young reporter that shocked a press corps already hardened by death threats, harassment, and assaults. On January 25, the private army of a local politician in the southeastern Feni District, Joynal Hazari, beat Tipu Sultan, a correspondent for the United News of Bangladesh, with iron rods and wooden bats, crushing the bones in his hands, arms, and legs so that he would never be able to work as a reporter again. The reporter was attacked for his writing on Hazari's abuse of power.

FACING ROUTINE THREATS, HARASSMENT, AND OTHER ATTACKS, Bangladeshi journalists continued to work at great risk as political and criminal violence went unchecked. Two journalists were assassinated: Mir Illias Hossain, editor of the newspaper Dainik Bir Darpan, and Shamsur Rahman, a senior correspondent for the national daily Janakantha and a frequent contributor to the BBC's Bengali-language service.

New York, January 4, 2001 --- Of the 24 journalists killed for their work in 2000, according to CPJ research, at least 16 were murdered, most of those in countries where assassins have learned they can kill journalists with impunity.

This figure is down from 1999, when CPJ found that 34 journalists were killed for their work, 10 of them in war-torn Sierra Leone.

In announcing the organization's annual accounting of journalists who lost their lives because of their work, CPJ executive director Ann Cooper noted that while most of the deaths occurred in countries experiencing war or civil strife, "The majority did not die in crossfire. They were very deliberately targeted for elimination because of their reporting." Others whose deaths were documented by CPJ appear to have been singled out while covering demonstrations, or were caught in military actions or ambushes while on assignment.

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