Bangladeshi Reporter Recounts Ordeal as Kidnap Victim

Pulack Ghatack
Dhaka
2020-11-03
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201103_BD_Journalist_1000.jpg Chittagong City Police Commissioner Saleh Mohammad Tanvir speaks with journalists after receiving their memo demanding the arrest of those involved in the alleged abduction of reporter Golam Sarwar, Nov. 3, 2020.
BenarNews

A Bangladeshi reporter said Tuesday that he was beaten during four days of captivity as a kidnap victim and coerced into making a videotaped statement before he was found unconscious on Sunday.

Meanwhile, fellow journalists urged police to investigate his case.

Golam Sarwar, a reporter at the Ajker Surjodoy, a Chittagong-based weekly, said he was riding a rented motorbike on Oct. 28 when someone stuck a hood over his face and abducted him. In a video circulated on social media shortly after he was found, Sarwar is seen repeatedly saying that he would stop being a reporter.

“They kept me confined in a room, wrapped my body with a piece of cloth and beat me with a wooden stick. They did it for two consecutive days,” Sarwar told BenarNews, adding that his attackers appeared to be trained.

“While beating me they kept on asking me if I would write again,” Sarwar said. “Sometimes they talked to people over the phone and addressed them as ‘sir.’”

Sarwar said he thought the abductors did not want to kill him but beat him to send a message to other journalists.

In Chittagong, Bangladesh’s second largest city, journalists called on police to launch an investigation into Sarwar’s alleged kidnapping.

“The kidnappers were powerful and influential. We need intervention from the higher ups calling for a proper investigation. If only the prime minister would step in to order police to investigate, justice would be served,” veteran Chittagong-based journalist Shahidul Alam told BenarNews.

“Journalists will lose courage if the culprits remain undetected and enjoy impunity. Ultimately Bangladesh will suffer from the absence of courageous reporting,” he said.

The Chittagong Journalists Association (CUJ) also presented a memo to the police commissioner demanding justice for Sarwar.

“Sarwar was kidnapped and tortured for his reporting. While beating him up brutally the kidnappers told him that it was a lesson for all journalists,” CUJ president Mohammad Ali said.

The officer in charge of Chittagong’s Kotwali police station, meanwhile, said officers were not able to begin their investigation.

“The victim hasn’t lodged any complaint. We need the complaint before we can begin our investigation,” Mohammad Mohsin told BenarNews.

Sarwar said his family filed a missing person’s report at the police station after he disappeared.

“I am undergoing treatment at a hospital, I can hardly move. That is why I could not file the case,” Sarwar said. “I may try to lodge it by Wednesday.”

Mohsin said the complaint was needed for the investigation even though police already had the family’s report of his disappearance.

“Now that he is back, we need his narration of the incident. Once we have it, we will surely start our investigation,” Mohsin said.

Golam Sarwar [BenarNews]
Golam Sarwar [BenarNews]

‘I won’t do news’

Sarwar was discovered lying on the ground near a bridge in Chittagong’s Sitakunda upazila. Police were called to the scene and the injured journalist was admitted at Chittagong Medical College Hospital.

A video that went viral on the same night he was found shows Sarwar repeatedly saying, “Please don’t beat me up, I won’t do news anymore.”

Sarwar’s disappearance came less than three weeks after another Bangladeshi journalist was killed.

Iliyas Hossain, a Narayanganj-based reporter for the daily Bijay who wrote about the narcotics trade, was hacked to death on Oct. 11 as he was returning home from work in the Dhaka suburb. His relatives said he had become a target because of his reporting.

Meanwhile, human rights organization Ain-O-Salish Kendra (ASK) reported that at least 209 journalists had received threats, faced criminal complaints or were beaten between January and September 2020.

The group alleges that 19 were attacked by people linked to political parties and 35 were harassed by members of law enforcement agencies. In addition, at least 81 were charged with violating the Digital Security Act and at least 23 journalists received death threats.

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