Bangladesh: A Safe haven for killers of journalists

                            RM Saiful Alam Mukul

Journalists in Jashore, a bordering district in Bangladesh, have observed the death anniversary of slain journalist RM Saiful Alam Mukul, editor of local daily Runner on August 30. It was his 22nd anniversary of death. On July 16, they observed the death anniversary of another journalist Shamsur Rahman, former special correspondent of Bangla daily Janakantho and also stringer of BBC Bangla Service.

Observing death anniversaries of slain journalists marking the day of assassinations has become a regular phenomenon for journalists in Jashore.

Rebel journalist RM Saiful Alam Mukul was killed by some unidentified assailants near his residence at Bezpara in Jashore town at around 10pm on August 30, 1998 local time.

His father Golam Mazed, founding editor of the daily was also killed in torture by the then government during the era of late president HM Ershad.

A case was filed with Jashore Kotwali police station by the victim’s widow Hafiza Akhter Shirin on the next day after the killing without naming the killers. Dulal Uddin Akand, assistant superintendent of police, Criminal Investigation Department,  produced a charge sheet before a Jashore court accusing 22  persons including Tariqul Islam, former minister and  late standing committee member of the country’s main opposition party -Bangladesh Nationalist Party on April 23,199. The BNP leader’s name was dropped from the case by the High Court later. The case was abandoned at one stage. The case came back to life in 2005. Maula Box, assistant superintendent of police, CID pressed a supplementary charge sheet inducting two more names. A court in Jashore framed charges accusing 22 people on 15th June, 2006 dropping the name of Tariqul Islam and another.  The court registered the statements of 25 witnesses in the case in 2010. It is believed that the name of the late BNP leader was inducted in the case for the sake of politics as he was an opposition party leader.

On July 16, 2000 Shamsur Rahman was shot dead by unidentified assailants at his office at Daratana, the heart of Jashore district town in Bangladesh. The incident took place at around 8:10pm on the day. Shamsur Rahman was also a writer of several books.

Both the incidents spurred movement particularly of the journalists in Jashore and also across the country, for which the government made assurance of justice.

As like as Mukul’s wife, Selina Akhter Lucky, wife of Shamsur Rahman, filed a case with the Kotwali police after the death of Shamsur Rahman. The Criminal Investigation Department, where the case was later shifted, submitted its charge sheet, accusing 16 people, five of whom were journalists, including Farazi Ajmal Hossain, special correspondent, Daily Ittefaq. In 2005 the case was shifted to the Speedy Tribunal, Khulna.

Journalists think that the name of journalists who were inducted in the list of murderers is innocent.  They are also victims of politics.

Bangladesh’s popular Bangla daily Prothomalo reported that a total of 27 journalists were killed in the country since 1992 although the name of daily Runner journalist Faruk Hossain and some others were not included.

On the other hand, the UNESCO in its report named 21 journalists in the list of killings.

I personally knew some of the victims, for which I took part in agitations demanding justice for them. Shamsur Rahman, RM Saiful Alam Mukul, Faruk Hossain, Manik Saha and Sheikh Belaluddin are among them. They all were closed to me.

After the killing of Mukul, journalists and political and social activists took to the street demanding justice. At that time they used to say- we want justice—–‘But now, they say – we don’t want justice as we don’t get it—-‘So, Bangladesh has become a safe haven for killers of journalists.

Saifur Rahman Saif is a Bangladeshi journalist. He works at New Age, a popular newspaper. He can be reached at [email protected].



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