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Family members, colleagues demand Kajol’s safe return

  • Published at 01:22 am March 19th, 2020
Shafiqul Islam Kajol
A group of photojournalists form a human chain in front of the National Museum at Shahbagh, Dhaka on Wednesday, March 18, 2020 Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

There has been no trace of Kajol, also the editor of Daily Pakkhakal, for the last nine days

A group of photographers yesterday formed a human chain before the National Museum at Shahbagh demanding missing photojournalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol’s immediate and safe return.

There has been no trace of Kajol, also the editor of Daily Pakkhakal, for the last nine days.

Kajol’s family suspects that this is an enforced disappearance and has been repeatedly urging the authorities to help ensure his safe return.

Amnesty international yesterday issued a statement saying Bangladesh must put an end to the wave of repression in the country that has seen journalists disappear and others threatened.

Article 19, a UK based human rights organization, also has expressed concern regarding Kajol's disappearance. Amnesty international has also issued a statement condemning the enforced disappearance of photojournalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol.

On Wednesday, while addressing the human chain, eminent photojournalist Shahidul Alam raised questions over the silence of photo journalists’ associations and many photographers on the issue.

He said: “We are silent on Kajol’s disappearance but Kajol was not silent after witnessing repression. These issues are common nowadays and some other journalists were also picked up and tortured by the administration recently.”

Shahidul Alam, who was also picked up from his house by law enforcers and was in jail for over 100 days, said: “We fear that exercise of his freedom of expression might be linked with his disappearance. It seems that the government and authorities concerned are reluctant to trace his whereabouts.”

Shahidul Alam said the government, administration and law enforcers were not being pro-people. Only some journalists were now working to serve people’s interests. But they are continuously silenced through repression and intimidation.

Kajol’s son Monoram Polok, a third year student of Jagannath University, alleged that the family was not getting any support from law enforcers to trace out his father.

“We want him back immediately and safely. But there is no progress. Our family urges the government and police to do everything for rescuing my father,” said Polok.

Kajol disappeared on March 10, a day after Saifuzzaman Shikhor, An Awami League lawmaker from Magura-1, filed a case against him and the Editor-in-chief of daily Manabzamin Matiur Rahman Chowdhury, and 30 others on charges of publishing a report on the basis of “false information” and circulating it on social media.

Amnesty International’s concern over enforced disappearances

The human rights organization called on the government to promptly amend the draconian Digital Security Act (DSA) in compliance with international human rights law.

Three journalists, including a prominent newspaper editor, have been accused of inciting “deteriorating law and order” under the act and one journalist has been brutally tortured this year for producing critical reports.

Another journalist accused under the act is feared to be a victim of enforced disappearance.

More than 1,000 cases have been filed under the act since it was put into implementation in October 2018. The cybercrime tribunal has dismissed more than 200 cases for lacking sufficient evidence into the allegations.

Enforced disappearance

Police have denied any information about the whereabouts of journalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol, who has not been seen or heard from since March 10.

On the previous day Shafiqul Islam Kajol was accused of inciting “deteriorating law and order” by publishing “false, offensive and defamatory” content on Facebook in a case against prominent newspaper editor Matiur Rahman Chowdhury and 30 others under the Digital Security Act. 

“The circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Shafiqul Islam Kajol raise serious concerns and send a chilling message that people can no longer express their opinions freely and safely.

“The authorities must urgently determine his fate and whereabouts, and ensure he is immediately released if under state custody,” said Saad Hammadi, South Asia Campaigner at Amnesty International.

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