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Ruling party MP assaults TV reporter

(Media Watch/IFEX) - 4 January 2012 - Ruling Awami League MP Kamal Ahmed Majumder assaulted a female television journalist at Monipur High School and College at Mirpur in the capital, on Tuesday 3 January 2012.

The incident happened when Aparna Singha, staff reporter of Rtv, along with cameraman Syed Haider and reporter Shahin Parvez, went to the school at around 11:30am to seek Kamal's comment on the school authority's decision to charge admission fees way beyond the limit fixed by the government. Kamal, elected from Dhaka-15 (Kafrul-Ibrahimpur), is president of the school managing committee.

Television footage showed Kamal striking Aparna's hand and pushing her aside, saying, "Keep it [the microphone] away . . . keep it away." The lawmaker was also heard calling the journalist "stupid" and ordering some men around him to "slap her". Aparna received primary treatment at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, Rtv authorities said. She stated, "He [Kamal] behaved very aggressively and pushed me aside. He used such dirty language that I cannot utter it."

Resentment has grown among guardians, who allege that the school authorities had been charging between Tk 20,000 (approx. US$245) and 26,500 for admission in class I-X. The government-fixed fee for admission to all private schools is Tk 5,000. Receiving complaints from some guardians, the Rtv team went to the school to report on the matter.

Osman Gani Babul, Rtv's Mirpur correspondent who was present at the time, said security guards at the school tried to obstruct them from entering the school but they still managed to go inside to talk to the authorities about the allegation. The school principal, Farhad Hossain, drove them out as soon as they entered his office and asked about the additional fees, Osman alleged. He added that some employees of the school engaged in heated arguments with them and asked them to leave the premises.

When Kamal arrived at the school at around 11:30am, Aparna and her colleagues, who were waiting outside the gate, sought his comment on the high admission fee. Upon hearing this, Kamal pushed Aparna and her cameraman aside.

Journalists of other media houses and another Rtv team rushed to the spot on hearing the news. Kamal's men aggressively advanced toward them, witnesses said.

When Kamal later came out of the school, reporters asked him why he had mistreated Aparna. He, along with some men around him, then screamed "Shoot them . . . shoot them."

A number of reporters lay down in front of Kamal's Pajero vehicle when he tried to leave the school without answering their questions, forcing him to retreat. Qazi Wazed Ali, officer-in-charge of Mirpur Police Station, said Kamal was escorted out of the school at around 2:45pm. Meanwhile, Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid regretted the assault on Aparna, saying such behaviour is "totally unacceptable" from a lawmaker. "I'm sorry and saddened by the incident," he said at a press briefing.

The education ministry formed a three-member committee to probe the incident. At an instant press conference in the school, Kamal, however, refuted the allegation of having struck Aparna's wrist. "I have just recovered from illness and still cannot stand up. How can I sprain her hand?" he said. He admitted, however, that he had pushed Aparna aside. "As soon as I reached the school gate, she held out a microphone in front of my face and started filming me. I refused to talk at the moment and pushed her aside." He accused the Rtv camera crew of filming him without his permission.

On the matter of additional fees, he claimed that the education minister had given him the go-ahead considering the fact that other private institutions had also increased their fees. "The fee was fixed in consultation with the guardians," he claimed.

Later in the evening, on a talk show on Mohonatv, which he owns, Kamal criticised journalists for their "aggressive attitude and their conspiracy against him in the name of journalism". On the show entitled "Information Terrorism: Conspiracy of capitalist mass media," discussants, including the school principal and the assistant principal of the school, blasted the Rtv reporter for "conspiring to tarnish the image of the school".

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