His Excellency Kamrul Ahsan, High Commissioner for Bangladesh to Canada
Bangladesh High Commission, Constitution Square Centre
340 Albert Street, Suite #1250
Ottawa, Ontario K1R 7Y6
Dear High Commissioner,
I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.
CJFE is deeply alarmed by the recent attacks by right-wing Islamist party supporters on journalists covering public demonstrations in Dhaka and Chittagong, Bangladesh on February 22.
According to a recent report from ARTICLE 19, more than 26 journalists and bloggers were injured by supporters of right-wing Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami while covering protests in different parts of the country last week.
The demonstrations, which called for the punishment of certain Jamaat-e-Islami leaders guilty of committing war crimes, incited violent backlash by supporters of the party against protestors, as well as law enforcement officers and media workers covering the event. Among the injured journalists were Masudur Rahman (GTV), Nurul Islam (Independent TV), Abdullah Tuhin (Maasranga TV), Mir Ahmed Miru (Amar Desh), Arifuzzaman (Ekattar TV), Sayeed Bablu (Sangbad), and freelancer Aminul Islam Bhuiyan.
In the southeastern city of Chittagong, similar attacks against demonstrators and journalists by an allied radical group, Hefazat-e-Islam, occurred after Friday prayers. Among the journalists assaulted there were Rajesh Chakrobarti (The Daily Jugantor), Kutub Chowdhury (The Daily Inqilab), Rabiul Islam Tipu (Maasranga TV), Farid Uddin (ATN Bangla TV), Soumen Dhar (Boishakhi TV) and a correspondent of the daily Banik Barta. A photojournalist with the daily Inqilab was seriously wounded and rushed to the Chittagong Medical College and Hospital for treatment.
These reports of violent intimidation methods by radical Islamist groups highlight an increasingly hostile environment for free speech and assembly in Bangladesh. CJFE condemns Jamaat-e-Islami's violent attacks on protesters and journalists, and calls on the Bangladeshi authorities to investigate these recent assaults in order to ensure a safer environment for journalists to work without the threat of harassment or violence.
We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply.
Arnold Amber, CJFE President
Cc: Her Excellency Heather Cruden, Head of Mission at High Commission of Canada in Dhaka, Bangladesh
The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs