ARTICLE 19 concerns about the safety of newspersons in Bangladesh

Logo of ARTICLE 19File photo

ARTICLE 19 expressed grave concern over the brutal killings of three media workers within the last three months. The organisation highlighted on several incidents of violence against the newspersons in recent times.

On 8 June, 2022, Abdul Bari, a senior production executive of the private television channel DBC News, was found dead with marks of stabbing on his chest and neck in a bush on the bank of Hatirjheel Lake in the capital.

Police recovered the body of Abu Jafar Pradeep, a correspondent of local daily Sorejomin Barta, from a pond in Kalapara Upazila of Patuakhali on 6 June, 2022.

Earlier on 13 April 2022, Mohiuddin Sarkar Naeem, a journalist based in Cumilla, was shot dead by miscreants while on his professional duties in Burichang Upazila of Cumilla. The main accused in the Naeem murder case was killed in ‘gunfight’.

ARTICLE 19 has recorded a total of 62 incidents of physical assault on journalists across the country from January to May this year (2022). 118 journalists were bodily injured in these incidents.

The rights organisation pointed out that continued violence against journalists across the country, including the filled cases and arrests of journalists under the ‘deeply flawed’ Digital Security Act of 2018, the recent brutal killings of three media workers as well as the internationally talked about journalist couple Sagar-Runi murder case in which the submission of an investigation report has been deferred for 89th time so far proves that the violation of the rights of newspersons and crimes against journalists indicate the persisting culture of impunity and increasingly fragile state of freedom of expression in Bangladesh. Its impact on the country's citizens, the media, and journalists, has already turned deadly, creating an atmosphere and culture of fear and self-censorship.

Therefore, ARTICLE 19 has called for a speedy investigation into all the incidents of crime against newspersons, including murder, to ensure the safety of journalists in Bangladesh. At the same time, the rights body calls for immediate materialisation of the government's commitment to amend the Digital Security Act 2018 (DSA).

In a statement sent to the media on Sunday, Faruq Faisel, regional director for ARTICLE 19 in South Asia, said, “ARTICLE 19 has been demanding reforms into the provisions of the Digital Security Act since 2018, which were identified as curbs to the right to freedom of expression and independent journalism. Admitting the fact that the law has been misused and abused, several responsible ministers in the recent past have promised to reform the law with an assurance not to arrest journalists immediately sued under the law. However, the reality is different; cases and arrests under this law are rampant.”

ARTICLE 19 also recorded 35 cases against 71 newspersons under DSA in 2021. Some16 journalists were arrested in these cases. Meanwhile, from January to May of this year (2022), 10 cases were recorded against 23 newspersons under the DSA. They were sued mainly because of their journalistic activities online including merely expressing views and sharing their work/news report online. During the time, three journalists had been sent to jail in February and May in 2022 after being arrested.

Faruq Faisel further said, “The law is clearly being misused to harass journalists. The government is also aware of these malpractices. We urge the government to make the necessary amendments to the law as promised, without any further delay.”

“The submission of the investigation report regarding the murder of journalist couple Sagar-Runi has been delayed for the 89th time so far. The delay in the submission of the probe report of a case, which has been in the international spotlight for ten years, is unprecedented. We hope that the investigation into Bari, Abu Jafar, and Naeem's murder will not face the same ‍fate,” he added.

According to the Global Impunity Index-2021 published by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Bangladesh ranks eleventh among the countries in the world where perpetrators have not been tried for killing journalists.