Bangladesh: Journalists Advised to Stay Away From Police

The year 2012 has particularly been a bad year for Bangladeshi journalists. There was numerous incidents of police and mob brutality on many journalists while on duty, a few good journalists perished in road accidents and a few were murdered including the much talked about unresolved murder of the journalist couple a few months ago.

The netizens have joined the journalists to demonstrate through several road-marches, human-chain, photo/musical show calling for justice of the couple's murder. But the grief of journalists was heightened on 26 May, 2012, as police forces started to beat three photojournalists ruthlessly while they were covering the news of a student agitation in front of Polytechnic Institute at Agargaon in Dhaka.

Photojournalist Zahid Karim of the daily Bangla newspaper Prothom Alo, being beaten up by police when he was photographing a student protest. Dhaka. Bangladesh. 26th May 2012 Image by Khaled Sarker/ used with permission

These incidents were enough to stir up the journalists fraternity, but on top of it, another violent incident took place invading a news agency on 28th of May. The office of the country’s biggest online newspaper at Amtoli, Dhaka was attacked by some armed criminals who stabbed several journalists indiscriminately, three of them being critically injured.

This video was uploaded in just after the incident [WARNING: GRAPHIC].

On the very next day, three court correspondents were assaulted by the policemen as they tried to rescue an young woman, who claimed to be harassed sexually and beaten by the policemen at the court premises. The young lady earlier came to lodge a case over dowry with her parents.

Netizens were outraged by these onslaught on journalists by the police and the miscreants. This was evident in the post of Jayed-ur-Rahman in the blog [bn]:

এধরনের সব ঘটনার পর সবাই আন্তরিকভাবে অথবা নিয়ম করে ঘটনার সুষ্ঠু তদন্ত চায়, দায়ীদের শাস্তি চায়। স্বরাষ্ট্র মন্ত্রীরা এসে ৪৮ ঘণ্টার মধ্যে অপরাধীকে পাকড়াও করার প্রতিশ্রুতি দেন। না, আমি স্বরাষ্ট্র মন্ত্রনালয়, সরকার কারো কাছে তদন্ত বিচার কিছু চাই না – শুধু জানাতে চাই একরাশ অনাস্থা তাদের প্রতি।

After such incidents, usually there are sincere demands for proper investigation, and hope that the miscreants will be punished. The Minister for Home Affairs usually comes up with the promise of arresting the criminals within 48 hours. But no! I don’t want any investigation or justice from the Home Ministry or Government. Let them know my distrust on them.

Probir Bidhan expressed his despondency in the same post:

সরকারি দলের নেতা-কর্মী এমনকি সমর্থক হলেও কত বাহারি সুযোগ-সুবিধা পাওয়া যায়! যাকে বলে কিনা সাত খুন মাফ!!! যখন তখন অস্ত্র-টাকা পয়সা-মাদক নিয়ে ঘুরা যায়, সেগুলোর যথেচ্ছ ব্যবহার করা যায়, আবার বিচারকে পাশ কাটিয়ে টিকে থাকা যায়। বিরোধী দল, প্রতিবাদী মানুষ আর সাংবাদিকদের মারলে সরকারি চামচা (নেতা-কর্মী, আমলা, র‍্যাব, পুলিশ, সেনাবাহিনী, গংদের) কোন দৃষ্টান্তমূলক শাস্তি হয়না, হলেও আবার মাফ পেয়ে যায়।

A ruling party leader-activist or even a supporter gets certain advantages! they can even escape from crimes such as murder!!! One can easily roam around carrying arms, money and drugs and use as thir wish, avoiding justice. On the other hand there is no exemplary punishment for beating opposition, mass protesters or journalist. Even if any action is taken, often the culprit gets pardoned.

This video uploaded by shows the torture on journalists, their protest and demand (video removed by the owner).

Looking at the bloods of the journalists, blogger Mahabub Jaman is very upset:

ছবির ছোপ ছোপ রক্ত দেখে আজ কেঁপে উঠলাম আবারো। বুঝলাম রক্ত দেখে নির্লিপ্ত থাকার মত অমানুষ হয়ে যাইনি এখনো।

I am shocked and terrified after seeing the bloods of journalists. I understood that we have not become that inhuman not to react on these sights.

In the midst of all the statement of the State Minister for home affairs, Mr. Shamsul Haque Tuku had shocked everyone. On 30th May in a statement he suggested [bn] that Journalist should keep a safe distance from police during news coverage.

Popular community blog Priyo has attempted to gather all the comments from social media in a post titled, Beware of dog…. Sorry, beware of police…, and quoted the facebook status of Editor of Weekly 2000, Mynul Ahsan Saber:

বয়স হয়েছে, সব দিকে সমান নজর দিতে পারি না। তাই ঠিক করেছি এখন থেকে সঙ্গে অল্পবয়সী কাউকে রাখব, যে পুলিশ দেখলেই আমার হয়ে সালাম দেবে।

I have aged now and can't look around clearly. I have decided to keep a younger person with me, who will salute the police on behalf of me as soon I am in proximity.

Prominent blogger Doctor Aijuddin, however, criticized the role of journalist recalling a recent clash between teachers and police that led to the tragic death of a school teacher who was protesting with fellow teachers for price hike. The news was not picked up by the media and was left unnoticed by the government, civil society and even in the social media. Aijuddin asked the most obvious question in his blog :

একজন সাংবাদিকের বেতন যদি হয় ৪২,০০০ টাকা আর একজন মাস্টরের বেতন হওলো ৪,৭০০ টাকা তার মানে দশজন মাষ্টরের বেতনে একজন সাংবাদিক হয়- তার মানে কি দশজন মাষ্টর পড়লে আপনেরা ফেসবুক ষ্ট্যাটাস দিবেক – পুলিশ ব্রুটালিটির প্রতিবাদ জানাবেন?

If a journalist’s salary is 42,000 taka (USD 506) and a teacher earns 4,700 Taka (USD 57) per month that means a journalist’s salary is equivalent to 10 teachers’ salary. Does that mean after 10 school teacher's murder, you will post a Facebook status – protesting against police brutality?

A group of netizens organized virtual protest [facebook event link] during 1-2 June, draping their profile picture with black image in solidarity with the journalist's protest against oppression.

Analyzing the growing concern, blogger Abdur Razzak, who is by profession a police officer, pointed out that there is no clear directive for police forces to deal with media. Razzak has stressed the need to change the situation in his blog,

 ইদানিং হরতালসহ অন্যান্য আইন-শৃঙ্খলা জনিত পরিস্থিতিতে পুলিশের আচরণ বিষয়ে পত্রিকায় যেসব ছবি ও খবর প্রকাশিত হচ্ছে তাতে মনে হচ্ছে পুলিশ বহুলাংশে অসহিঞ্চু হয়ে পড়েছে। আইন-শৃঙ্খলাজনিত ডিউটিতে নিয়োগের আগে ও পরে কর্তব্যরত পুলিশ সদস্যদের নিয়ে ব্রিফিং ও ডিব্রিফিং এর আয়োজন করতে হবে। এই ব্রিফিং-ডিব্রিফিং অনুষ্ঠানে রাস্তায় নিয়োজিত পুলিশের কর্তব্য ও সম্ভাব্য পরিস্থিতি নিয়ে সঠিক নির্দেশনা দিতে হবে। [..] অন্যথায় পুলিশ দ্রুত জনগণ থেকে বিচ্ছিন্ন হয়ে পড়বে।

What we get the impression from the news and photos published in the newspaper that police has become impatient while in duty. Before and after their deployment to bring law & order, briefing and debriefing session has to be arranged for the assigned personnel. In those briefings, deployed police will have to be given clear direction of their responsibility in tackling possible situations. [..] Otherwise, the police will be rapidly detached from the people.

1 comment

  • ziaush shams

    We can hardly put all the blame-eggs in police basket. Our politicians have miserably failed to convert police force, which was created by the British colonial power to serve their nefarious purpose of subjugating us with iron hand, into a humane law maintaining force to serve our contemporary needs of a sovereign country. We should not, thereby, expect much from the  existing police force until necessary and appropriate reforms are done. We citizens should rather motivate them (the law enforcing forces) to realize their constitutional obligation to general public of this democratic civilized country. Police personnel should also be reminded of the fact that their perks come from citizens’ heard earned taxed money, not from the VIP’s alone. I, personally, am optimistic that we shall have our own police, not the remnant of the colonial-day police, in the very near future. 

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