Two journalists at ATN News have been assaulted by Barind Multipurpose Development Authority (BMDA) staffers for reporting on claims that employees of the government ministry were failing to arrive at work on time. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the assault and calls on authorities to investigate the incident and protect the safety of journalists in Bangladesh.
On the morning of September 5, journalist Bulbul Habib and his cameraperson Rubel Islam were assaulted at the BMDA offices after questioning BMDA Executive Director Abdur Rashid during a live broadcast about his late arrival.
During the incident, Rashid physically assaulted Habib and Islam, while demanding that they leave the office. Rashid was then joined by at least 17 fellow staffers, including Jiban Ahmed, General Secretary of the BMDA Employees’ Union, who proceeded to attack the two journalists.
According to reports, Habib was punched repeatedly, causing serious injuries to his hand, while Islam was struck with a blunt weapon and sustained injuries to his lip and ear. Both journalists were taken to the Rajshahi Medical College for treatment
Last month, the government of Bangladesh announced that all offices would run from 8:00 am until 3:00 pm to save electricity and mitigate traffic congestion. ATN News had previously reported on the failure of many government office workers to follow the new office hours.
On the day of the incident, Habib filed a case against 17 BMDA staffers, including Rashid and Ahmed, at Rajpara police station. Members of the Rajshahi Union of Journalists and the Television Reporters Association staged a protest outside the BMDA offices, demanding an immediate investigation into the incident. Two BMDA staffers were subsequently suspended.
The Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangbadik Forum (BMSF) strongly condemned the attack and demanded legal action against the perpetrators.
Attacks on journalists and media workers are frequently recorded in Bangladesh. Last month, Banglavision television journalist Saddam Hossain was assaulted while covering a story on the mismanagement of the Bus Rapid Transit Line project in Uttara.
The IFJ said: “The physical attack and harassment of two ATN News journalists is a serious violation of press freedom and the temporary suspension of two perpetrators is not sufficient. The IFJ urges the Bangladeshi authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the incident and ensure all persons responsible are held accountable for their actions.”