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Drug traffickers target provincial newspaper "Andoloner Bazar", journalist found dead

(RSF/IFEX) - On 7 August 2002, RSF and the Bangladesh Centre for Development, Journalism and Communication (BCDJC) voiced their utmost concern over an attack on the printing press used by "Andoloner Bazar" and three other provincial daily newspapers in Kushtia (south-western Bangladesh) and the authorities' failure to respond adequately to earlier attacks on journalists by presumed drug traffickers.

"Several journalists have already been attacked by drug traffickers without any effective response from the authorities," RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard and BCDJC President Nayeemul Islam Khan said in a joint letter to Home Minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury. "Such laxity has only encouraged a sense of impunity among those behind the attacks, with the result that the latest attack has prevented four newspapers from being published."

RSF urged the minister to intervene with the police authorities in Kushtia to ensure that the security of journalists is guaranteed and that an investigation is undertaken into the drug trafficking world to identify those responsible for the attacks.

According to information obtained by RSF and the BCDJC, during the night of 2 August, "Andoloner Bazar"'s director, Manzur Ahsan Elahi, was threatened with reprisals if he continued publishing his newspaper. The previous day's edition contained an article on the growing power of a Kushtia drug trafficker. The director contacted the police, who disregarded his urgent call.

At nightfall, armed men went to the newspaper's office. They padlocked the entrance, then forced their way into the Quality Printing Press, which prints "Andoloner Bazar" and three other newspapers, "Bajropath", "Ajker Alo" and "Bangladesh Barta". Printing plates were damaged and workers were threatened with death if they continued printing. As a result, none of the four newspapers appeared the following day. Anti-riot police were deployed outside the printing house and the newspapers' offices the next day, but employees said they fear further reprisals.

On 28 May, "Dainik Manabzamin"'s correspondent in Kushtia, Nazmul Imam, was attacked by thugs with sticks and knives who cut off his right thumb. Imam told RSF he believed he had been attacked because of his articles on drug trafficking (see IFEX alert of 31 May 2002).

RSF and the BCDJC also asked the interior minister to ensure that there is a full investigation into the death of journalist Syed Farroque Ahmed, 50, whose mutilated body was found by police on 3 August, more than two months after he disappeared. So far, the police have no leads in the case. Editor of the local publication "Pubali Barta" in Srimangal (south-eastern Bangladesh), Ahmed was not known to have any enemies, according to those close to him. RSF and the BCDJC have no information that would suggest that he was killed because of his journalistic activities.

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