Culture of impunity begets violence against journalists

Published: 00:00, Feb 24,2021


A DELAYED filing of the murder case in connection with the killing of journalist Borhan Uddin Mujakkir, a reporter of Bangla Samachar and Bartabazar.com news web site, and the law enforcement agencies failing to make any arrest till Tuesday are worrying. The journalist was shot when he was covering a clash between two factions of the ruling Awami League at Companiganj in Noakhali on February 19 and died in Dhaka Medical College Hospital the next day. The father of the deceased lodged a case on Tuesday morning while the law enforcement agencies have reportedly not been able to do anything so far in this regard. Eight more people were shot and more than 20 became injured in the infighting. Journalists have, meanwhile, asked the government to ensure justice for the family of the deceased. What is gravely worrying is the reported slack attitude of the law enforcement agencies in attending to the journalist killing, which becomes typical of all such cases. In the past few years, dozens of journalist have been killed and injured, with none receiving justice.

No headway in the murder of journalist couple Sagar Sarwar and Meherun Runi in nine years, despite the government’s repeated promises of early dispensation of justice, appears to be characteristic of other incidents of violence against journalists. A number of incidents of violence against journalists have also made the headlines in the recent past. A Daily Bijay correspondent, who exposed a criminal nexus in gas line distribution, was hacked to death on October 12, 2020 in Narayanganj. An Ajker Suryoday journalist was abducted and tortured in Chattogram in November 2020. A local correspondent of Samakal was injured in Cumilla in July 2020. In January–September 2020, at least 56 journalists were injured, 27 were assaulted, 16 were attacked and 11 were threatened while at least 45 journalists were injured, 10 were assaulted and 12 were threatened in 2019, as Odhikar statistics say. Journalists appear to have had little protection and safety all along and the denial of justice or a delayed dispensation of justice has given rise to a culture of impunity, encouraging the politically powerful to go violent against journalists.

The government must, therefore, live up to its pledges and ensure the freedom of the press. The government must realise that freedom of the press makes power accountable and, thus, serve people and democracy. In the case at hand, the government must ensure that justice is delivered at the earliest. The government must also look into other incidents of violence against journalists and bring perpetrators to book.

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