The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) expresses its deep concern at the recent instances when journalists have been injured and on occasions attacked by political activists in the cities of Dhaka and Chittagong, as protests engulf Bangladesh.
Reports from IFJ partners in Bangladesh indicate that ten journalists were injured when activists of the Islamic political party, the Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing, the Chhatra Shibir clashed with police in the national capital Dhaka, after Friday prayers were concluded on February 22.
Protesters were reportedly demanding the dispersal of crowds gathered in Shahbagh square, another quarter of the city, demanding quick and effective punishment for war crimes suspects from the Bangladesh war of liberation of 1971.
According to information received from the Bangladesh Manobadhikar Songbadik Forum, police reportedly employed crowd control measures when the Jamaat and Chhatra Shibir protesters departed from the agreed route and began moving towards Shahbagh square, threatening a direct confrontation.
Journalists were among several others injured when the police resorted to a baton charge and fired rubber bullets to defuse the situation.
The journalists injured in Dhaka include GTV reporter Masudur Rahman, Independent TV cameraperson Nurul Islam, Maasranga TV reporter Abdullah Tuhin, Amar Desh photographer Mir Ahmed Miru, Ekattar TV reporter Arifuzzaman, Sangbad reporter Sayeed Bablu, and freelance journalist Aminul Islam Bhuiyan.
Elsewhere, at least six journalists were injured in Bangladesh’s principal port city of Chittagong, when a procession of Islamists shouting slogans against the Shahbagh square protests attacked them after Friday prayers.
Photographers of Jugantor and Inqilab dailies, camerapersons of the Maasranga, ATN Bangla and ATN News TV channels, and the correspondent of Banik Barta received injuries.
The growing political confrontation between the Islamist parties and a coalition of civil society actors demanding accountability for 1971 war crimes, has witnessed a number of deaths of protesters. On February 15, a protestor and anti-Islamist blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider, was murdered shortly after returning home from a demonstration. This led to a further escalation in the anti-Islamist protests.
The IFJ joins partners in Bangladesh in calling on both sides to honour the basic rules of safety for journalists engaged in reporting ongoing events.
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries