Day by day journalism in Bangladesh is going on very danger and risk. Actually here is no press freedom. Journalist’s killings and torture is a common feature in Bangladesh. In this horrible situation journalists are working here. Though government always says that, journalists and media are free. In practice, media is not free. Every day, 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.
The 16th of July had gone recently. The date was the murder day of prominent journalist Shamsur Rahman Cable. He was killed by terrorist in his office on 16th July of 2000. Yet, not get justice of his family as well as journalists community.
As a professional journalist and human rights defender I have been working last 20 years. I was made investigative reports against extra judicial killings, Islamic militancy, corruption, minority and indigenous torture in Private TV CSB News, Radio German-DW, and The daily Sangbad. I am working for peace, happiness and combat state torture including extra judicial killings, human rights violation, and minority-indigenous torture and also freedom of expression and press. Only for my professional works I was victimized by Army (state) with series false and fabricated and political motivated cases as well as illegally arrested, brutal tortured and detained.
In recent past regime of army backed caretaker government, it was common Practice for the joint forces, the Army, and the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) to torture university professors, journalists, writer and human rights defenders including famous dramatist columnist Malay Bhoumic, professor Anwar Hossen Neem Chandra Bhoumic, Harun-ur-Rashid, Sadrul Amin, present vice chancellor of Rajshahi University Abdus Sobhan, ex vice chancellor of the same university and present ambassador of UK Saidur Rahman Khan, journalist Tasneem Khalil and also myself. No action can to be taken against these perpetrators.
For my professional worked, I became a target. I have been charged multiple times with false and political motivated charges and have been illegally arrested, tortured and detained. I was arrested from my house at midnight and tortured in front of my wife, child and rental house owners. I was taken to the RAB-5 office means Army camp. I was hung from the ceiling with my hands tied with ropes and was beaten mercilessly on my feet and my back. I was kept hanging from the ceiling with ropes around my hands, with the mask on my face. And also they gave me electric shocks. Finally, I was tortured in 15 hours. When I was being tortured I was being shouted at with words like: “Will you do the Benazir report again…?” “Litchi garden report again…” ‘Litton’s family report again…” Now face the consequences; son of a pig… son of a bitch…” etc. The RAB would like to be able to kill me, and officially call the killing a "crossfire" or "encounter." Still I have been facing false and fabricated cases. Major Rashid has been recruited to serving in the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Ivory Coast who was the main perpetrator of me. This makes it clear how well the Bangladeshi authorities look into human rights abuses and treat the victims and the perpetrators.
Journalist Tasneem Khalil, who wrote an article criticizing the government, was taken by Army members to the facilities of the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence, Bangladesh's intelligence agency, and was brutally beaten. Now he has been exiled by the Bangladeshi government and lives in Sweden. Cartoonist Arifur Rahman arrested and sent to the jail for made a cartoon. Though, he was freed from jail later. In the regime of BNP-Jammat government journalist Saleem Samad, writer-journalist Shahriar Kabir, professor of Dhaka University and famous writer Muntasir Mamun also brutally tortured and detained illegally. There are so many examples like mentioned above. In Bangladesh still going on extra judicial killings in the name of ‘Crossfire’ ‘Encounter’ or ‘Gunfight’. Though, the present government is democratic. Recently in Gofforgaon upazilla under Mymensing district journalist Biblop was tortured by the supporters of ruling party lawmakers. In last 16 years almost 24 journalists murdered in Bangladesh including prominent journalist Manik Saha, Deponkar Chakraborty, Goutam Saha, Humayun Kabir Balu, Shamsur Rahman Cable, Harun-ur-Rashid Khokon, Saiful Alam Mukul, Sheikh Belaluddin. But yet real investigation and trial has not end. Journalist’s community and the relatives of killed journalists are waiting for justice. In last 38 years since independence hundreds journalists brutal tortured including Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, Atiquallah Khan Masud, Alhaj Zahirul Haque, Probir Shikder, Tipu Sultan. In this year on 3rd of July a community young journalist Nurul Islam Rana was killed by terrorists at Uttara in Dhaka.
In a report of HR organization Ain O Salish Kendro (ASK) from 2004 to 2008 1,190 peoples were killed in extra judicial killings. Peoples had hoped that, present government to take step to stop extra judicial killings. But extra judicial killings have been still going on in Bangladesh. Another HR organization Odhiker’s report says that, On April 13, 2009, the ‘cadre group’ of Gias Uddin, a local MP, attacked and gravely injured Abdullah Al-Amin Biplob, a Shamokal representative of Goforgaon, Mymensingh, following the publication of a certain news item. From January 1 to June 30, 2009, journalists have been subjected to repression in various ways. During this period of time, 41 journalists have reportedly been injured and 38 have received threats. In addition to these figures, 5 journalists have been attacked due to publishing reports, 1 was abducted and 8 of them were assaulted. All these incidents are in contravention to domestic and international law. Latest journalist tortured information is that, Anwar Ali, staff reporter for the daily Star from Rajshahi. He was attacked by terrorists for personal enmity on Sunday evening in front of his house in Rajshahi city. Journalist torture is common practice in Bangladesh. On 3rd of July, 2009 a community based young journalist Nurul Islam Rana was killed by terrorist at Uttara, Dhaka.
In Bangladesh press freedom is a golden dear. Those who are involves in corruptions they always controlled by the governments. Presents trends of media are that, black money holders are coming in the ownership of media house. So, journalists are firstly, self censored. Another media controlled key is government advertisement. That is why; media is not playing good role for the peoples. For media freedom, another problem is that in Bangladesh has no definition about contempt to court and defamation. So, always, media has fearing regarding these. Which content will go to contempt to court or defamation for publishing? Media peoples have not known this. Only for this recently famous national daily the Prothom Alo has charged with contempt to court. There have no national broadcasting rule. Though, we got recently right to information act and community radio rule. Now, we are waiting for see what better for media freedom of these two rules.
Journalist’s communities in Bangladesh are waiting for justice of their killed and tortured colleagues. I think, in Bangladesh if society has not changed as qualitative then press freedom is so far from practically. In practice, has no rule of law, good governance in Bangladesh. Whole nation politically, socially divided by two major groups. Journalist’s community has also divided by two groups and also they have lack of professionalism.
Though, Freedom of the press should be granted in Bangladesh's constitution; it is granted in Art. 39 (b), but it is not binding upon the government. Therefore, we should fight to establish the rule of the constitution. The judiciary should be independent in practice, and all kinds of killings by the government machinery should be stopped.
I think that, it is necessary to give punish those who are perpetrators and should Bangladesh government stop Impunity for the greater interest of democracy and peace. To establish freedom of the press and to protect human rights that are the first and main step to establish the rule of law and to develop a country, the culture of democracy should be practiced continuously and strictly in Bangladesh. Though still has been going on journalist’s repression in Bangladesh. We hope that, present democratic government should stop all kinds of repression, torture and killings.
Writer: Exiled Journalist, writer and human rights activist and for politically persecuted a guest of Hamburg Foundation.
Jahangir Alam Akash
Editor of the Human Rights Today