Press freedom advocates, family call for swift probe into journalist’s death

Jesmin Papri
2022.07.14
Dhaka
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Press freedom advocates, family call for swift probe into journalist’s death Activists demonstrate in front of the district police superintendent’s office to protest the suspicious death of journalist Hasibur Rahman Rubel, in Kushtia, Bangladesh, July 14, 2022.
BenarNews

Press advocates and relatives of journalist Hasibur Rahman Rubel are calling on authorities to swiftly investigate his death earlier this month –  the fourth Bangladeshi reporter to die under suspicious circumstances this year.

Rubel, 31, the acting editor of local daily Kushtiar Khabar and district correspondent for the Amader Notun Somoy newspaper, was last seen leaving his office on July 3 to respond to a phone call and his body was recovered four days later from the Garai river in Kushtia, a district in western Bangladesh, according to his uncle.

Citing local news reports and a journalist familiar with the case, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said Rubel had informed his office assistant that he would return soon and, after he did not return that night, his brother filed a missing person’s notice with police.

Rubel’s uncle, Mizanur Rahman, filed a murder case on July 8 at the Kumarkhali police station in Kushtia, located 130 miles from the capital Dhaka.

“We are very much disappointed as we have seen no progress in the case so far. But on the day of the incident, police said that 80 percent progress had been achieved in identifying and arresting the accused,” Rahman told BenarNews.

“We don’t understand why they can’t do anything or the police are not doing anything. Now, I am worried about whether the whole family will be plunged into danger,” he said.

Since Rubel’s death, journalists have been staging daily demonstrations in Kushtia, where they protested at the district police chief’s office on Thursday.

“Today is the last day of our week-long protest – but police have not been able to say anything about the killing or who was involved in it,” Kushtia Editors’ Forum President Mujibul Sheikh told reporters.

Mostafizur Rahman, the additional superintendent of police in Kushtia, challenged complaints about the investigation.

“Police have taken the matter seriously. Several teams are working on this. We hope to arrest those involved in the killing as soon as possible,” he told BenarNews.

Rahman, meanwhile, said Rubel was last seen after receiving a call on his mobile phone around 9 p.m. on July 3.

“Although no marks were found on Rubel’s body, there were signs of ‘hanging from a rope’ on the back of his neck. Everything will become clear after we get the autopsy report,” Rahman said.

Activist Nur Khan, a former executive director of Ain-O-Salish Kendra, a local human rights group, said the suspicious deaths of journalists needed to stop.

“We have seen incidents like killing and torture of journalists in the past, due to the publication of objective news in the country,” he told BenarNews.

“Attacks on newsmen need to be taken seriously. Such crimes cannot be eradicated from the society if the murders remain as mysteries for eternity or justice is delayed due to negligence,” he said.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists also called on authorities to carry out a thorough investigation.

“Bangladesh authorities must conduct a swift and impartial investigation into the disappearance and death of journalist Hasibur Rahman Rubel, determine if he was targeted for his work, and ensure that any perpetrators are brought to justice,” said Robert Mahoney, CPJ’s executive director, in a news release on Wednesday.

“Authorities must work to end Bangladesh’s dreadful record of allowing journalists’ deaths to remain unsolved and to wallow in impunity.”

Unsolved cases

The news release noted that Bangladesh ranked 11th on its 2021 global impunity index, pointing to six unsolved murders of journalists. The nation moved up one spot from 2020 because of the convictions of the men who killed blogger Avijit Roy. He was hacked to death in February 2015 as he left a Dhaka book fair.

Rubel is the fourth journalist to die under suspicious circumstances in Bangladesh this year, according to Article 19, a United Kingdom-based human rights group working for free speech.

Mohiuddin Sarkar Nayem, 19, a reporter with the local daily Comillar Dak, was fatally shot on April 13 while working in the Burichang sub-district of Comilla.

On June 6, Police recovered the body of journalist Abu Jafar Pradeep, 35, from a pond in the Kalapara sub-district of Patuakhali.

Two days later, the body of Abdul Bari, 28, a senior production executive at DBC News, was recovered from the banks of Hatirjheel lake in Dhaka.

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