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Five journalists receive death threats in one week

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has expressed renewed concern over working conditions for the media after at least five journalists in southern Bangladesh received death threats during the week of 6 to12 March 2005.

The organisation called on Interior Minister Lutfozzaman Babor to provide protection to journalists who "are impeded from carrying out their work if they are at risk of reprisals from criminals or even political party members." "These threats must be stopped and those behind them should be punished," the organisation added.

Shumi Khan, a correspondent in Chittagong, southeastern Bangladesh, for the Dhaka-based weekly "Shaptahik 2000", received a letter on 12 March that read, "If you continue to write about Jamaat-e-Islami in Satkania [a Chittagong suburb], we will kill you." The fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party is a member of the ruling coalition, together with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

On 25 February, "Shaptahik 2000" published an article by Khan implicating Shahjahan Chowdhury, a Jamaat-e-Islami member of parliament, in criminal and terrorist activities.

Khan was the victim of a knife attack in April 2004 and takes the death threats very seriously (see IFEX alert of 30 April 2004). The investigative journalist told RSF that she felt she was "in danger and did not know what to do." The editor of "Shaptahik 2000" said the paper had received several phone threats in recent days. "Jamaat-e-Islami claims that we publish false information and favour other parties, but this is not true . . . Whenever we receive threats, we have asked the government to take effective measures, but we have found that this does not work," the editor stated.

On 10 March, Jamaat-e-Islami members in Chittagong issued similar threats against Shamaresh Boiddya, of the daily "Bhorer Kagoj", and Jubayer Siddiqui, of the daily "Ajker Surjodoy".

At a meeting four days earlier, Nurul Haque, the head of Jamaat-e-Islami in Satkania, threatened journalists who write about his party.

In a separate incident, on 12 March, Salek Nasir Uddin, of the daily "Sangbad", received a death threat in Mirershorai, a Chittagong suburb. The threat was reportedly made by Sultan Salah Uddin, a leader of Jubodal, an organisation linked to the BNP. The journalist had included Sultan Salah Uddin's name in a list of criminals published in the daily. According to the daily "Prothom Alo", however, the Jubodal leader denied having made any threats.

Finally, on 6 March, Zillur Rahman Jalil, of the daily "Janakantha", based in Patuakhali, southern Bangladesh, received an anonymous letter that read, "Journalists in Khulna and Jessore have been killed, [you also wrote about us]. Be prepared, your turn is coming up."

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