NEW YORK: Bangladesh authorities must conduct a swift and transparent investigation into two separate attacks on journalist Md Rashid Chowdhury and bystander Jashim Uddin, and on journalists Azim Nihad, Rahul Mahajan, and Lokman Halim, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.
On the evening of Friday, May 13, a group of teenagers stabbed Chowdhury, executive editor of the privately owned daily newspaper Dainik Agrabani Pratidin, in the central city of Narayanganj, according to news reports. The teenagers also stabbed Uddin when he attempted to intervene, according to those sources.
Separately, on the morning of May 8, the brother of a local shark oil factory owner assaulted Nihad, Mahajan, and Halim, respectively chief reporter, reporter, and camera operator with the privately owned news website Territorial News, while the three were reporting on alleged shark product smuggling in the southeast city of Cox’s Bazar, according to the Dhaka Tribune and Nihad, who spoke to CPJ by phone. Nihad told CPJ that a local businessman had threatened the three journalists while reporting in the area the day before.
“Bangladesh authorities cannot allow these wanton attacks on journalists in Narayanganj and Cox’s Bazar to go unpunished,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C. “Assaulting journalists amounts to a fundamental attack on the Bangladeshi people’s right to information. Authorities must conduct swift and impartial investigations into both incidents, hold the perpetrators accountable, and prioritize the safety of journalists.”
On May 13, Chowdhury was returning home when a group of teenagers blocked his path and stabbed him in the right side of his abdomen and his hand, according to news reports. The teenagers accused Chowdhury of publishing news critical of them in Dainik Agrabani Pratidin, which had reported on a clash between two armed teenage gangs, according to those sources. The teenagers stabbed Uddin when he attempted to help Chowdhury, according to those sources.
The teenagers fled the scene when locals arrived upon hearing screams, according to those sources, which said that Chowdhury and Uddin received treatment at a local hospital following the incident. CPJ was unable to determine the full extent of Chowdhury and Uddin’s injuries. Chowdhury did not respond to CPJ’s call and WhatsApp message requesting comment. CPJ was unable to identify contact details for Uddin.
The Bangladesh national police did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on the Narayangaj attack, and CPJ could not locate contact details for the Narayangai police.
Syed Sifat Al Rahman, general secretary of the Narayangaj City Press Club, told the Dhaka Tribune that police had inspected the location of the incident, but had not yet registered a case against the attackers. Rahman did not respond to CPJ’s call and WhatsApp message requesting comment.
In a separate incident, on the morning of May 8, Nihad, Mahajan, and Halim were filming outside a shark oil factory in Cox’s Bazar when Mostaq Ahmed, the brother of the factory’s owner, ran in front of Nihad, grabbed his throat and choked him, slapped him against his ear, pushed him into a wall, and broke his phone, according to Nihad and a photo of the incident he provided to CPJ, published above.
Ahmed then charged toward Hakim, grabbed him to restrain him from filming, pushed him against the wall, and broke his camera, Nihad said, adding that Ahmed also pushed Mahajan during the incident.
Ahmed fled the scene when locals arrived, Nihad said, adding that police arrived at the scene within around 10 minutes.
Nihad told CPJ that his throat and the back of his head were in serious pain from the incident, and he sought medical attention at a local hospital. Salim sustained scratches, but Mahajan was not physically injured, Nihad said.
Nihad told CPJ that on May 7, the day before the attack, Gura Mia, a local businessman with ties to the factory and an alleged shark product smuggling racket, threatened Nihad, Mahajan, and Halim while they were reporting in the area. Mia told the three journalists that if he caught them in the area again, he would “cut up [their] bodies and throw them in the ocean,” according to Nihad.
On May 9, Sadar Model police station registered a first information report, which opens an investigation, against the factory owner, Ahmed, and Mia in relation to the assault, according to Nihad and a copy of the report, which CPJ reviewed. The report accuses the three of wrongful confinement, unlawful assembly, voluntarily causing hurt, attempt to murder, theft, and criminal intimidation.
Nihad told CPJ that police conducted raids in the Cox’s Bazar area on the night of May 8, but were unable to find the three accused, who have since gone into hiding.
Mia did not respond to CPJ’s text message requesting comment. CPJ was unable to identify contact details for Ahmed. CPJ was not able to locate public statements by Mia or Ahmed regarding their alleged role in the assault.
Mohammad Abdul Halim, the investigating officer in the case, and Sheikh Monirul Gias, the officer-in-charge of the Sadar Model police station, did not respond to CPJ’s requests for comment sent via messaging app.