BANGLADESH: Jhalakathi journalists on the run

Police raid their houses, ruling party men set up "check posts" to nab them

The Daily Star
Saturday, December 13, 2003

A tense situation is prevailing in Jhalakati town as journalists are fleeing homes amid raid and attack on their houses by ruling party men.

Activists of ruling party fronts Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD) and Jatiyatabadi Jubo Dal, allegedly backed by police, are chasing journalists in the town and raiding their houses, newspaper officers and even madrassahs to nab them, four days after the attack on a journalists' rally at Jhalakathi Press Club in which six journalists were injured.

Protesting the assault and harassment, journalists in Barisal have kept hoisted black flag atop the Barisal Reporters Unity office and are wearing black badges.

One more case has been lodged against some Jhalakathi journalists while the accused in the case filed by the journalists are moving freely in the town, local journalists told this correspondent during a visit yesterday.

The ruling party activists have set up "check posts" in the town to nab journalists, they alleged.

They claimed that police and the administration are working on directives from State Minister for Law Shahjahan Omar, who shelters district Jubo Dal President Mir Zia Uddin Mizan, who reportedly heads the infamous Mizan Bahini.

Police raided the houses of journalists accused in the case filed by Mizan's followers on Wednesday night.

Family members of Azmir Talukder, Akkas Hossain, Jahangir Hossain Manzu, Manik Roy and some other journalists complained that police harassed them during the raids.

On Thursday, Mizan Bahini members swooped on the office of local daily Shatokantho in search of its editor Zahangir Hossain Monju.

Monju and the daily's staff reporter Khalilur Rahman escaped through the back door. Khalilur Rahman is also the correspondent of Dhaka-based national daily Janata.

At about 1 PM on that day, they cordoned the Islamia Madrasha in front of the Jhalakati Sadar police station. They searched for its principal Mawlana Abdur Rashid who is correspondent of national daily Inqilab and president of Jhalakathi Press Club. Abdur Rashid is the complainant of the case lodged by some local journalists.

The cordon was however withdrawn after the Deputy Commissioner and the Police Superintendent were informed.

Mizan Bahini members threw brickbats on the house of Manik Roy, correspondent of Dhaka-based national daily Janakantha and UNB news agency.

They also chased Bhorer Kagoj correspondent Akkas Sikder and ProthomAlo correspondent Alamin as they tried to move in the town.

But police declined to make any comment in this regard.

The journalists will go for tough programmes if the harassment is not stopped, BRU sources said.