Thursday, April 11, 2013

Media harassed, women reporters attacked by Mullahs

TV reporter Nadira Sharmin 

SALEEM SAMAD

Pro-Sharia Islamist group Hifazat-e-Islam activists attacked media persons during their rally in downtown Dhaka, injuring eight journalists including a woman reporter.

Women reporters and TV crew were denied entry to Hifazat's rally in Dhaka. The Hifazat-e Islam not only barred women from entering its rally, but also harassed physically and mentally several female journalists covering the rally event.

Private channel Ekushey Television’s (ETV) reporter Nadia Sharmin was attacked who were demanding cancelling the women’s policy and banning public mixing of men and women. Sharmin was attacked around 3pm when she went to cover the rally.

“Some Hifazat activists came to me and told me that admission of women to the rally is not allowed.

They said, ‘You resort to falsehood. You’re the agents of Ganajagaran Mancha’ (youths protest against Islamist at Shahbag Square). At one point of the conversation they assaulted me. I took shelter in a car nearby and then they even tried to vandalise the car,” she said.

“I asked why I can’t go just because I am not wearing headscarf (hijab)? It’s my personal business whether I wear scarf or not. Who’re you to talk about this? Then they got locked in argument with me. At one stage I started for my office again ignoring their obstruction.”

The activists interrupted Financial Express Reporter Arafat Ara, near press club while she was going to office.

On Friday, Mohona TV Chief Reporter Sumi Khan faced obstruction from the Hifazat activists in Chittagong, the second largest city in the south.

Dainik Ittefaq’s photographer Sujon Mondol was attacked. Both Mondol and Sharmin were admitted at a state medical college hospital.

The journalists were dubbed as ‘dalals’ (stooge) and ‘nastiks’ (atheists) during the assault by the Hifazat activists.

Foyzul Alam Siddique was severely beaten up by the Hifazat activists. A freelance photographer Nazrul Islam was also critically injured in the assault.

Two more journalists of SA Television (SATV) were assaulted near the venue and their camera were vandalised. Reporter Mohsin Kabir and TV crew Khurshed Alam from SATV were assaulted and Khurshed’s camera was taken away while interviewing some leaders of Hefajat-e Islam.

The Islamist activists also assaulted and injured ATN News crew Sohel Rana with sticks in front in downtown. Police officials rushed him to a police hospital for treatment.

Meanwhile in Savar, at the outskirts of the capital, TV crew Abul Halim of Baishakhi Television and Nazmul Huda of ETV. They were alleged harassed by anti-Islamist demanding trial of war crimes activists of Jahangirnagar University. They said the activists snatched away their cameras when they were shooting footage of the Hefajat’s long march being obstructed.

On Friday, the aggrieved Hefajat men physically assaulted four journalists of private television channel Ekatteur television (Channel 71) in the afternoon, while they were covering the rally.

The four newsmen are: Mohim Mizan, Mainuddin Dulal, Babul Paal and Rajib Barua. Khurshed was admitted to hospital with serious wounds, while Mohsin was released after treatment.

On Sunday (7 April) scores of women reporters held a banner in front of the National Press Club in the city centre protesting the Mullahs attack, assault and humiliation. The journalist’s leaders threatened the Islamist that if the security and respect for the women reporters are compromised, they may call for boycott of news and broadcast.

Hours later to the surprise of many Hefajat-e Islam regrets attack on journalists during its rally at downtown Motijheel rally. Noor Hossain Kashemi, leader of Hefajat made the statement at a press briefing held at in the capital a day after the grand rally.

“On behalf of our leaders we express regret to the journalists who were injured by our men mistakenly,” Kashemi said. The Hefajat leaders also directed its activists not to inflict any harm to any journalists including females, he added.

Saleem Samad is an Ashoka Fellow (USA), correspondent of Reporters Without Borders (RSF)