Monday, March 17, 2008

Is Bangladesh safe for the Journalist?

NIRMAL L. GOMES

WHENEVER we read a newspaper and turn on TV or radio there are tones of exciting news. Some news, events, and incidents are indeed painful and horrific. Last year it was a time when my attention was brought into an agonizing news report published in more than a dozen daily newspapers in Bangladesh regarding one young journalists Zahid Al Amin who was brutally tortured when he was in performing his duty. Presently Zahid has been working in The Bangladesh Observer and Assistant Editor in Our Time. He has been looking for justice since July 22, 2005 (The Bangladesh Observer, March 19 and July 22, 2006, Daily Suprobhat Bangladesh, April 4 and July 22, 2006, Amadershomoy, March 4 and 23, 2006, Daily Janakantha, July 21, August 13, and Jaijaidin, August 9, 2007). On July 21, 2005 he went to Chittagong Medical College Hospital to cover the news of an acid victim Hosne Ara. He was talking to the relatives of severely acid burnt woman who has refused to give dowry (Daily Naya Diganta, July 22, 2005, Prothom-Alo, July 27, 2005, The Independent, July 28, 2005, Daily Star, July 27, 2005, Daily Suprobhat Bangladesh, July 24, 2005, The Bangladesh Observer, July 24 and 28, 2005, Sangbad, July 28, 2005). After two years, Chittagong Judicial Metropolitan Magistrate Mohammad Abdur Rab ordered the Chittagong Metropolitan Police to conduct further investigation into the case in connection with attack and torture of journalist Zahid Al Amin (The Daily Star, Feb. 27, 2008).

Well the acid victim Hosne Ara succumbed to her injury due to lack of proper treatment at the hospital on the day she was admitted in the hospital. Zahid was trying to gather inside story of the incident and the condition of the victim. However, he was attacked and assaulted by some intern doctors and staffs. He was almost killed by those culprits. He was seriously injured on his head, broken and fractured legs. By couple of hours continuous tortured in the hospital he became physically and mentally ill. After the incident he filed a case against those criminals, but until now he was denied justice. Urgently Chittagong journalists condemned the incident and demanded justice with the Prime Minister. The Chittagong Union of Journalists (CUJ) and Chittagong Metropolitan Union of Journalists (CMUJ) also demanded justice submitting the memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner of Chittagong. Indeed, the nationwide journalists also strongly criticized this incident and demanded justice.

A village boy Zahid dreamt to be a journalist. Having a vision to be a journalist, he took admission at the Department of Communication and Journalism in Chittagong University. Due to his freelance writings he became well known to the regional as well as the national level as a young journalist. During his studies he started to work for local English and Bengali newspapers, i.e. The Daily Life, The Bangladesh Observer, and Daily Naya Diganta. A dream turned reality, Zahid began to tell the nation and the world true stories by his creative writings. A staff reporter of The Bangladesh Observer at this time who has been in anxiety and wondering for his life when he will be attacked again. He has been receiving threats over by phone. The hooligans attempted to kidnap Zahid on his way to his office in an evening. He perpetrators engaged pressure tactics to withdraw the police case which he filed against the perpetrators.

However, rather than getting justice of the criminals who are holding big position in Chittagong Medical College and Hospital. Not only that! Before 1/11 the government rewarded some of those people by posting them to Dhaka with responsible positions. More than two years past of this incident, till today the police can not identified the criminals and even serve warrant against those criminals. Good that Zahid is hopeful that one day he will get justice!

Justice not yet ascetic and justice not yet exiled from Bangladesh. It has been seen that the present caretaker government has been willing to solve many pending cases that previous political government did not solve those cases due to lack of neutrality of the government. Moreover, the caretaker government vows to clean-up corruption with zero tolerance in Bangladesh. The government has been trying heart and soul to bring corrupt people to justice, which has been appreciated at home and abroad. Writing of the journalists is the mirror of the nation. Indeed, the caretaker government encourages fair reporting and reinforces media to be more accountable for their journalism. The writings open the eyes of the government and citizens--what is right to do or what is not supposed to be done.

In 2006 the International media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders has ranked Bangladesh one of the most dangerous countries for journalists (VOA News). Every one knows very well that journalism is one of the distinguished professions, but it is a high risk profession too in many countries. World Assocation of Newspapers (WAN) reported that in 2007 about 84 media employees killed including 1 killed in Bangladesh. Before October 2006 last five years 11 journalists have killed in Bangladesh (Daily Janakantha, Oct. 28, 2006).

Journalism today is more dangerous than before. In the past decade more than 500 journalists have been killed throughout the world, often for simply doing their jobs. These murders were direct attack on journalists, not only on individuals, but also on society as a whole. Yet very few of the predators were ever brought into justice (Editors Webdog, Oct. 6, 2006). For Zahid Al Amin it was not wrong to be born in Bangladesh; it was not a wrong decision to be a journalist, and to write the true story for the people! Why he was brutally assaulted by doctors, interns, and staffs of a public hospital on July 21, 2005? Is Bangladesh the safe place for Zahid or any journalist? These questions strongly rise to a nation. Till today he receives death threats from the perpetrators. When Zahid will be able to walk without fear in Bangladesh? When will he be able to sleep in peace at home? Will the journalists in Bangladesh get adequate protection to perform their roles and responsibilities without any fear or intimidation?

In this situation the nation believes that getting legal cooperation and action from present caretaker government which can solve Zahid’s case and will bring justice for Zahid. The nation and world look for justice for all journalists along with all citizens in Bangladesh. #

March 16, 2008, Washington DC

Nirmal L. Gomes is a graduate Student in Education, specialty with Admin., Curriculum, Foundation, and Policy Studies in The Catholic University of America, and Human Rights Activist, Washington, DC, USA) Email: Gomes@cua.edu or Nirmalgomes@aol.com