Journalist attacked in course of duties: justice not in sight

Nirmal Gomes

Nirmal Gomes

Last year, my attention was brought to a disturbing news report published in several dailies about young journalist Zahid Al Amin being attacked while performing his journalistic duties. Zahid, a reporter of Bangladesh Observer and Assistant Editor of Our Time, has been waiting for justice for nearly three years.

On 21 July 2005, he went to Chittagong Medical College Hospital on an assignment to cover the news of acid victim Hosne Ara, another casualty of dowry, who succumbed to her injuries (allegedly) for lack of proper treatment after she was admitted in the hospital. Zahid was trying to investigate her story, starting with the hospital’s role in dealing her case. In course of performing his duties, he himself became a victim of assault perpetrated by some intern doctors and staff members, causing him several injuries. As an immediate response to it, Chittagong Union of Journalists (CUJ) and Chittagong Metropolitan Union of Journalists (CMUJ) condemned the attack on Zahid and demanded justice by submitting a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner of Chittagong. Nationwide, other journalists’ forums also joined in and voiced their condemnations demanding proper inquiry into the matter. Zahid himself filed a criminal case with the police in this connection (The Bangladesh Observer, March 19 & July 22, 2006, Daily Suprobhat Bangladesh, April 4 & July 22, 2006, Amader Shomoy, March 4 & 23, 2006, Daily Janakantha, July 21, August 13, & Jaijaidin, August 9, 2007). Till today, there has not been any substantial progress to report, except that two years after the incident – Mohammad Abdur Rob, the Metropolitan Magistrate, last month ordered the Police to further investigate the matter (The Daily Star, Feb. 27, 2008).

Born and raised in a rural village, becoming a journalist was Zahid’s dream. With this vision, he got himself admitted in the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism in Chittagong University. Due to his freelance writings, soon he became well known at the regional as well as the national level as a promising journalist. Side by side his studies, he started to work for local English and Bengali newspapers, including for example, The Daily Life, The Bangladesh Observer, and Daily Noya Diganta, reporting on various pertinent issues. These days, he is in constant fear of further attack.Since the incident, he had received several threats over telephone which was also followed by a failed kidnapping attempt on his way to work one evening. There had also been pressures on him to withdraw the criminal case. All of these facts have been duly notified to the police.

In 2006, the International media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, has ranked Bangladesh as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. In today’s Bangladesh, journalism seems more dangerous than ever. In the past decade more than 500 journalists have been killed throughout the world, often for simply trying to do their jobs. These killings were direct attacks on journalism and on freedom of expression. They were not only attacks on individuals, but also on the society as a whole. Yet very few of the attackers were brought to justice (Editors Webdog, Oct. 6, 2006). For Zahid Al Amin it was not a crime to be born in Bangladesh; it was not a crime wanting to become a journalist; and it was not a crime wanting to report true stories of real people.

In the news bytes, the current Caretaker Government of Bangladesh is trying to present itself as being serious about law enforcement. So Zahid is hoping for justice and protection of law. We are also watching how the present Government deals with Zahid’s case.


4 Responses to “Journalist attacked in course of duties: justice not in sight”

  1. Habib

    Dear Nirmal L. Gomes

    Let me inform you more serious facts done by this quassi-military Government.They have insulted our liberation, our soverginity & nationality by inviting Jamat in Bongovobon on 26 march. Government avoided the supporters of 1971 !

    So what you can expect from this Government ?

  2. Nirmal L Gomes

    Dear Habib:
    Thanks for your comments. You are right what you said. In a certain situation the present government come to the power and till the citizens of the nation and world have so much expectations from this government. Yet, they can do many good things if they wish and they can do many positive things if they have good heart and soul. I hope that this government must look at so much pending and unsolved cases, like Zahid Al Amin and so many others to bring justice. Let the citizens sleep in their house, let citizens work freely, and let them walk freely in their motherland. If government ‘s high official get that rights and opportunity, then why not for citizens?

  3. Habib

    Thank for your reply. But you know its so schoking that now a days I don’t expect such thing from this Government. Here I am giving you the reasons ::
    1. ) http://www.e-bangladesh.org/2007/10/18/banking-junta-edition/
    http://www.e-bangladesh.org/2007/10/21/in-denial-moeen-u-ahmed/
    2 )Sheikh Hasina is being detained under the Emergency Powers Rule, 2007, not under the criminal code of Bangladesh. There is no due process under the emergency powers. Right to bail and right to appeal are denied and the detention can be extended indefinitely even without a trial. Trials are conducted by special tribunals in camera (only the judge is present, there is no jury and the proceedings are closed to outside scrutiny) and summarily (normal procedures such as conducting discovery are not allowed.)This is a violation of international human rights laws, in particular Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.Gov didn’t accept case against war criminals but they are making politics tuff for politicians.
    3 )http://www.e-bangladesh.org/2008/02/14/how-the-bangladesh-military-abuses-its-power-under-the-state-of-emergency/
    http://www.hrw.org/reports/2006/bangladesh1206/
    4) “Bangladesh: Protecting Rights as Vital as Ending Corruption Press Release, August 1,
    2007 ::
    http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/08/01/bangla16556.htm
    5 ) Bangladesh: Release Journalist and Rights Activist Press Release, May 11, 2007 ::http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/05/11/bangla15906.htm
    6 ) Bangladesh: Elite Force Tortures, Kills Detainees Press Release, December 14, 2006 :: http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/12/13/bangla14844.htm
    7 ) Judge, Jury, and Executioner: Torture and Extrajudicial Killings by Bangladesh’s Elite Security Force Report, December 14, 2006
    http://www.hrw.org/doc?t=asia&c=banglahttp://sotacit.wordpress.com/2007/10/16/everything-you-need-to-know-about-general-moeen-u-ahmed/
    8 ) Elections can be held under emergency as there are instances of holding polls in such situation in the country in the past, home affairs adviser Maj. Gen. (retd.)
    9) United States Charge d’ Affaires to Bangladesh Geeta Pasi on Sunday met Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Moulana Matiur Rahman Nizami
    This is a continuation of Pasi’s meetings with leaders of different political parties, a U.S. embassy press statement says in the capital, Dhaka on Sunday. During the meeting, the U.S. envoy and the Jamaat leaders discussed the current political situation in Bangladesh and the status of implementation of the electoral roadmap.

    Replying to a question whether there was any discussion about the parliamentary election Mujahid said Jamaat has told the U.S. envoy “like the whole nation Jamaat is also waiting for the long-awaited parliamentary polls.”

    “Jamaat, as all other democratic parties, will take part in the much-expected parliamentary election. Election commission has declared that the election will be held by December 2008. We hope the election will be held as per the timeframe,” Mujahid said
    This Government is showing priority to war criminals, thats why Geeta pasi dared to meet with Nizami.
    Where as about the suggestions for sending the AL chief abroad, Home Adviser Maj Gen (retd) MA Matin said that they cannot act on ‘partisan’ doctors’ recommendations.
    Do you still believe that the aim of this Government is to protect people’s right?

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