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Why do crimes against journalists go unpunished in Bangladesh

  • Published at 12:06 am November 3rd, 2019
Photo: Bigstock

'At least 10 journalists were killed in connection to their work from 2000 to 2005'

Saturday marks the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, proclaimed by the United Nation (UN) General Assembly, and adopted by the General Assembly Resolution in 2014.

UN always urges its member countries to do their utmost so that violence against journalists, and media workers can be prevented, and those responsible for bringing harm to them are brought to justice, denying impunity to the perpetrators.  

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an organization that promotes press freedom, and defends the rights of journalists, in their Global Impunity Index 2019, published on October 19 this year, ranked Bangladesh 10th among a total of 13 countries who made up the list of the world’s worst impunity offenders. CPJ has been publishing this report since 2008.  

When contacted, CPJ’s Impunity Campaign Consultant Elisabeth Witchel said: "During the early parts of the 21st century, freedom of expression activists, and journalists were struggling for justice in a series of attacks against them. This also includes Bangladeshi journalists covering crime, and political beats. 

"At least 10 journalists were killed in connection to their work from 2000 to 2005." 

Cases still pending

According to CPJ, since 1998, the cases filed over seven out of the 21 murder incidents of journalists, and media workers which took place in Bangladesh are still pending, including the infamous Sagor-Runi murder case. 

Nowsher Alam Roaman, brother of Meherun Runi, and the brother-in-law of Sagar Sarwar, the two slain journalists, expressed his disappointment over the long wait to see justice.

He said: "There is no progress at all. After all these years, I think there can only be two reasons why we are not getting justice. The first reason might be that those who are linked to the murder do not want the case to be solved.

"Whereas, negligence from the different law enforcement agencies concerned in the investigation could be the second reason behind this painful delay of justice." 

Perpetrators enjoying impunity 

Saiful Alam, Daily Jugantar acting editor, and also the president of National Press Club's executive committee said that there are several reasons why perpetrators responsible for crimes against journalists, and media workers dodge punishment.

"The culture of impunity is the most powerful tool for criminals to avoid being punished. The second thing is that those who are killing media journalists care little about the law.

"Abuse of political power is another major factor that deprives the victims of justice," he added.

Echoing the same, Afsan Chowdhury, media activist and veteran journalist said: "The rule of law has to be established to ensure justice. Without this, it is not possible to get justice for either common people or journalists."

CPJ’s Impunity Campaign Consultant Elisabeth Witchel said: "Sure some individuals have been arrested in crimes against media workers, but that is far away from full prosecution. Statements made by politicians following these murders [media worker] often found the journalists at fault rather than decrying the attacks, and the attackers. Journalists who cover protests have also been attacked or arrested."

According to Reporters Without Borders (RWB), which conducts political advocacy on issues relating to freedom of information, and freedom of the press, more than 30 journalists lost their lives in the line of duty around the globe this year.