BANGLADESH: Kushtia BNP cadres attack journos' meet
BNP activists storm press convention in Kushtia, injure 25 journalists including the president of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists
The Daily Star
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
At least 25 journalists were injured, one critically, when BNP cadres swooped on a journalists' convention in Kushtia yesterday protesting against harassment of four journalists by ruling BNP lawmaker Shahidul Islam.
The critically injured Mizanur Rahman Bhija, news editor of Kushtia-based Dainik Kushtia, was sent to Dhaka immediately for better treatment with injuries to the head and chest.
The other injured include the incumbent President of Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ) and Editor of The Bangladesh Observer Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, BFUJ Treasurer Farzi Azmol Hossain, former vice-president of Dhaka Union of Journalists (DUJ) Saiful Islam and General Secretary of DUJ Omar Faruk. Iqbal Sobhan also sustained injuries to the head and chest.
The BNP men attacked the convention 20 minutes after the programme began at 11:30am.
Witnesses said at least 100 cadres and activists equipped with weapons came out from BNP office chanting slogans against the journalists' convention. The venue of the convention, Kushtia Public Library ground, was only 300-yard away from the Kushtia district BNP office.
Sources said two ruling party lawmakers of Kushtia allegedly provided cadres to carry out the attack on the journalists in a bid to foil the convention.
The BNP cadres started throwing brickbats at the journalists, vandalised furniture of the convention, a motorcycle of photojournalist Jamil Hasan Khokon and two microbuses that carried the journalists from Dhaka and other places.
District Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD) President Abdul Muyeed Babul, General Secretary Kamal Uddin, Joint Secretary Pikul and Sumon, Kushtia Government College unit Convener Abdul Hakim, Joint Convener Abu Sayeed Jakaria Utpal, Mirpur upazila BNP leader Zillur Rahman, Tohirul Islam and district Jubo Dal leader Sahidullah Sahid led the attack on the convention.
They beat up the journalists mercilessly while a few police personnel posted at the venue remained inactive during the rampage.
Kushtia Reporters Unity (KRU) however had sought for police protection during the convention from district administration but only eight policemen with two sub-inspectors were deployed there.
The BNP men occupied the convention stage and set fire to it after beating up the journalists' leaders on the stage. The journalists ran for their lives while a number of them took shelter inside the Kushtia Public Library. The attackers even tried to attack the public library but police foiled their attempts.
Later additional police and Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) men brought the situation under control.
KRU organised the journalists' convention protesting against the oppression of four local journalists. At least 500 journalists from ten south-western districts and from the capital gathered at the venue to attend the convention.
Amanur Aman, acting president of KRU and Kushtia correspondent of The Daily Star was presiding over the programme.
Sources said BNP lawmaker of Kushtia-2 constituency (Mirpur-Bheramara) Shahidul Islam sent around 50 cadres and activists to foil the convention. They came to the town in the morning and took part in the attack. Another lawmaker of Kushtia-4 constituency also provided cadres for the attack, sources said.
The other injured journalists are Kushtia Correspondent of Channel i and Editor of local Dainik Andolaner Bazar Manjur Ehsan Chowdhury, Special Correspondent of Danik Manabzamin Laekuzzaman, Faridpur Correspondent of United News of Bangladesh (UNB) Munshi Harunur Rashid, Acting President of KRU and Kushtia Correspondent of The Daily Star Amanur Aman, Kushtia Correspondent of Prothom Alo Tariqul Haq Tariq, Chief Editor Dainik Ajker Sutropat Mujibul Sheikh and Editor Akther Hossain Firoj, Staff Correspondent of Dainik Andolaner Bazar Sarif Biswas, President of Meherpur Press Club Ashraful Islam. They were treated at Kushtia General Hospital.
The journalists left for the capital in police escort afterwards as panic gripped the local journalists.
Harassment of four journalists
Shahidul, lawmaker of Kushtia-2 constituency (Mirpur-Bheramara) and president of Kushtia BNP, filed several cases against four journalists terming them extortionists.
The journalists are Hasan Jahid, staff correspondent of Dainik Manavjamin and Kushtia correspondent Rtv, Al-Mamun Sagar staff correspondent ATN Bangla and Kushtia correspondent Dainik Jugantor, Munshi Tarikul Islam Kushtia correspondent of Dainik Samakal and Channel 1 (one), and Manjur Ahsan Chowdhury.
Following a news item about the declining popularity of three lawmakers, Shahidul filed another case against them while Azad Biswas, known to be a cadre of Shahidul Islam, filed another case.
The journalists fled the district after police raided their houses several times to arrest them.
The four journalists had returned to Kushtia for the convention but they left the district again fearing more attacks on them while the others remained at their homes.
Different organisations condemned the attack and demanded punishment of the lawmaker Shahidul Islam. Journalists in Faridpur, Chuadanga, Meherpur, Jhenidah, Magura, Jessore and Khulna condemned the heinous act of ruling party men.
State Minister for Home Affairs Lutfozzaman Babar also condemned the attack in front of journalists at his office yesterday.
Meanwhile, journalists in the capital staged a sit-in in front of the Jatiya Press Club to protest against the attack on newsmen in Kushtia.
The angry journalists blocked roads in front of the press club, brought out a procession and held a rally burning the effigy of Shahidul Islam MP.
BFUJ President-elect Manzurul Ahsan Bulbul, Secretary General-elect Abdul Jalil Bhuiyan and Dhaka Union of Journalists (DUJ) President Altaf Mahmud addressed the rally.
The BFUJ will announce fresh protest programmes when the newly elected committee takes over at a meeting in Mymensingh on Tuesday.
Similar protest programmes were also held in Chittagong, Khulna, Jessore, Bogra and other districts.
Date Posted: 5/30/2006