119 journalists harassed in different ways in six months of 2023: ASK

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As many as 119 journalists were harassed in different ways -- being tortured, threatened and accused in cases -- for playing their professional roles in the last six months of 2023 -- between January and June; of them, the highest 29 in Dhaka followed by 8 in Chattogram and Cumilla each.   

Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) revealed these statistics on Monday in a six-month human rights report, prepared on the basis of news from 10 national dailies, different online portals and their ‘own sources’.   

Terming the custodial deaths as alarming incidents within the period, ASK said incidents -- like illegal detention, mysterious disappearance, murder of journalists, harassment and torture, border killing, violence towards women and the abuse of digital security act -- are taking place.   

In their statistical analysis of the human rights situation, the rights organisation mentioned the death of journalist Golam Rabbani, who was the Jamalpur district correspondent of Banglanews24 and said the incident of journalist’s death while discharging duties has a far-reaching impact. It also curbs the role of the media in ensuring accountability and good governance.        

Claiming the journalists are being attacked and accused in cases while performing their duties, the ASK said picking up Prothom Alo Savar correspondent Shamsuzzaman by some men claimed to be CID and the denial of his day-long detention by the authorities concerned proved the attitudes of law enforcement agency illogical and illegal.   

ASK said a case was filed against Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman during this period. Such lawsuits will provoke infringement of freedom of the press and expression. These types of measures will infringe on the freedom of the press and can play a role to create fear and insecurity for journalists in carrying out their professional duty.

Previously, the government high-ups including the law minister promised to maintain a special caution over registering a case against journalists under the Digital Security Act, but its reflection is not being seen in these events. Rather various remarks of high-ups and responsible persons about Prothom Alo editor and reporter have encouraged the overenthusiastic persons to lodge such cases.

Cases filed under Digital Security Act

After analysing the 24 cases filed in the last six months, Ain O Salish Kendra said, a total of 60 people have been accused in those cases. 26 of them were immediately arrested. Out of the 24 cases, five were filed for making insulting comments against the prime minister, where five were accused and four were captured almost immediately.

ASK has demanded the withdrawal of all cases filed against journalists and free thinkers under the DSA. It further said, that the DSA is already seen as a repressive act by all.

The ASK report said, in the past six months, four people have lost their lives while in the custody of law enforcement agencies while two have been shot dead by them. At the same time, 51 people have died while in incarceration. 24 of them were convicts and 27 were prisoners. It further read that in this period a total of 804 children across the country have been victims of abuse and murder.

179 instances of political clashes and violence

ASK said, there have been 179 instances of political clashes and violence in the past six months. In those clashes, 14 have died and 2,422 have suffered injuries.

In that period, 11 Bangladeshis have lost their lives at the hands of BSF at the Bangladesh-India border and 14 have suffered injuries. In five incidents, three households and a business establishment of the Hindu community has been attacked by miscreants.

15 idols of Hindu deities have been damaged. Meanwhile in Panchagarh, one person died and at least 62 suffered injuries in an attack on the Ahmadiyya community. In that attack, 103 houses and 33 business establishments were attacked, vandalised and torched.

Rule of law and accountability a must

According to ASK, in the last six months 154 women and men have been victims of sexual abuse. Out of them, 79 were women and 75 were men.

In this period, 294 women were victims of rape, 20 of them were murdered after rape. Three women committed suicide after falling victim to the heinous crime. 253 women have been victims of domestic abuse. 156 women were killed while 59 abused women committed suicide. Also, 24 people lost their lives in mob lynching in the past six months.

ASK feels that to prevent violation of human rights, the rule of law and accountability have to be established. Otherwise, a culture of injustice gradually gets established and the number of human rights violations increases. ASK demanded the government to uphold the human rights of its citizens and to take necessary steps to ensure justice for the victims.