At least 23 media workers attacked, beaten, assaulted, their cameras smashed, and vehicles vandalized
In an unprecedented attack, journalists were singled out and assaulted by ruling party cadre while covering student protests in Dhaka’s Dhanmondi on Sunday.
Though individual journalists often face assault in the line of duty during major incidents such as general elections, the scale of this attack surpassed them all.
At least 10 journalists, mostly photojournalists from different media outlets, were beaten brutally in Dhaka’s Science Lab area, allegedly by Chhatra League men, armed with sharp weapons and rods, many wearing motorcycle helmets.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, journalists said the attackers, who also clashed with the protesting students, threatened them, particularly those with cameras, before attacking them.
These journalists were covering part of the ongoing students’ movement demanding discipline in the transport sector that was sparked by the deaths of two students in the city under a bus last week. In Science Lab and Jigatola areas, where these people were working, the protesters clashed with armed groups on Saturday.
Sunday began relatively calm, and the presence of students was thin at Dhaka’s different points.
But when a procession of several thousand students from Shahbagh reached Jigatola, tensions increased.
Soon afterwards, a large group of men poured out of the Dhaka College premises.
Photojournalists covering the event took the worst of the attack. First they were threatened not to take any pictures.
“I was taking pictures from a distance, when some people yelled at me and waved machetes. Suddenly, they ran at me and hit me twice with the back of a machete,” Ibnul Asas Jawed of Janakantha told the Dhaka Tribune.
Bonik Barta staff photojournalist Palash Shikder was also at the same spot and was attacked and beaten up by the same men.
Around the same time, Associated Press photojournalist AM Ahad and several others were working from the front side of City College on the Mirpur Road and the men from the procession shouted at them not to take any photos.
“We were just trying to do our job. Some men from the procession carrying sticks ran towards us and beat us up,” said a photojournalist, wishing not to be named.
AP photojournalist AM Ahad took the worst of the beatings. He was hit mercilessly by the attackers with rods and sticks.
Besides Ahad, Palash and Jawed, Rimon from US based Zuma Press, freelance photojournalist Rahat Karim and Enamul Hasan, a photography student of Pathsala South Asian Media institute were also beaten up.
Police, who were present in large numbers and fully equipped in riot gear, played the role of a passive audience.
A little further away, Prothom Alo journalist Ahmed Deepto was surrounded by 15-20 men and beaten. He got cut and had to take stitches.
New Age journalist Mahtab Uddin Ahmed was waiting in front of a house in Dhanmondi when students took shelter following police tear shell attack in Jigatola.
“I was standing in front of a house. Suddenly, some unidentified men came towards us and tried to attack the girls who took shelter inside the gate. I approached to them and said I am a journalist and asked them not to touch them. The group of men then used slang words to me and beat all of us,” Mahtab told the Dhaka Tribune.
Daily Ittefaq Staff Reporter Sujon Mondol was hit with wooden sticks when trying to get wounded journalists out from the Science Lab area.
The attackers, allegedly Chhatra League men, also vandalized the cameras of a number of journalists.
NTV Staff Correspondent Fahad Mohammad and Cameraperson Rubel Hossain sustained injuries when they tried to prevent attackers from smashing their cameras in Jigatola.
Others who were beaten were Channel i reporter Preema Rahman and a cameraperson, Mohona TV staff reporter Ariful Islam and cameraperson Rezaul Karim, DBC News driver Munir, Abdullah Al Bappi and Sharif of Dainik Naya Diganta, Abu Sufian Jewel of Bdmorning news portal and Daily Prothom Alo senior photojournalist Sajid Hossain.
When the attackers vandalized the vehicle and camera of Nagorik TV, reporter Abdullah Shafi, cameraman Ripon Hasan and the driver Golam Morshed tried to resist them and sustained injuries.
Although a group of journalists were charged in front of Star Kabab at Dhanmondi 2, they managed to get away.