Monday, November 14, 2005

JOURNALISTS UNDER ASSAULT


Friday the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ) and the Dhaka Union of Journalists (DUJ) jointly staged a sit-in in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka and in other parts of the country. The journalists' organizations staged the program protesting the 'undemocratic' and 'fascistic' behavior of the government that forced the union leaders to cancel a national convention against repression on journalists.

Covering their mouths with black clothes, the agitated journalists also observed a two-hour token-hunger strike and held a rally protesting the same. At the protest rally, BFUJ President Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury accused the government of repressing the journalists. “We have called the 'National Convention against Repression on Journalists, Terrorism and Militancy' but the government, in the name of security reasons, prevented us from holding the convention," he added.

Though the BFUJ was scheduled to hold the national convention at the Institute of Diploma Engineers (IDE) Saturday, it was forced to postpone the convention as IDE authorities, following a directive of the National Security Intelligence (NSI), cancelled the booking of the auditorium for convention for security reasons of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meeting in Dhaka.

Besides the capital city, the journalists in Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshahi, Bogra, Dinajpur and Mymensingh also observed token hunger strike protesting the government's 'undemocratic' behavior.

Reporters Without Frontiers (RWF) in its latest annual report said that for the third year in a row Bangladesh was the country with the largest number of journalists physically attacked or threatened with death.

RWF said the, “…conservative government showed no interest in combating the scourges of corruption and violence against the press. Protected by the authorities, Islamist groups stepped up their intimidation of independent news media.”

The group says Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s ruling alliance of conservative and Islamist parties, which has been in power since October 2001, displayed criminal ill-will in refusing to acknowledge human rights violations, including press freedom violations.

"The government displays an open hostility towards the press," said the head of one journalists’ association who did not want to be identified. "It uses all sorts of methods to reduce criticism in the name of the national interest. These range from the assignment of state advertising - the daily Janakantha has been deprived of it - to unjustified libel prosecutions against the leading editors of privately-owned media. In fact, the government is afraid of the media because most of them defend the public interest."

Maoist groups have also been responsible for many attacks on journalists. This was most true in the south-western Khulna region. Sources: Reporters Without Borders Asia Media, Financial Express

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