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.