Journos become target again
At least 15 journalists were attacked by ruling party men and many more were threatened at polling stations while they were covering yesterday's municipality elections.
The attackers on many occasions vandalised the journalists' cameras, took away their mobile phones, and other valuables.
Ruling party men beat up Farhana Rahman, senior reporter of Ekattor TV, her cameraperson, and their driver yesterday morning at Habiganj Zila Parishad polling centre.
“We rushed to this polling centre hearing about ballot box stuffing. But an Awami League activist wearing the badge of the party asked me not to enter the polling station. As we tried to enter, he and some other activists started beating me up pulling me by my hair,” said Farhana in a live interview with a satellite channel immediately after the incident.
In Sunamganj, ruling party men attacked four journalists at Sunamganj Government Women College polling station in presence of AL mayor candidate Ayub Bakhat Jaglul.
During the attack, they also broke two cameras of Channel 24 and Channel 9.
Latifur Rahman Raju, Sunamganj correspondent of Bangla daily Sangbad, and Maidul Rasel, Sunamganj correspondent of Channel 24, were injured in the incident.
Journalists present during the incident observed a symbolic five-minute sit in at the polling station protesting the attack.
Four more journalists had minor injuries during an attack when they were shooting the snatching of a ballot box in Moulvibazar Mazar Government Primary School polling station. Unknown criminals beat up SATV correspondent Panna Dutta, Somoy TV correspondent Waliur Rahman, Kalerkantho reporter Abdul Hamid Mahbub, and Banglanews correspondent Mahbubur Rahman Rahel.
Their cameras and other valuables were taken away.
The AL and the BNP blamed each other for the incident.
In Sirajganj, supporters of Sultan Talukder, a ruling party leader and councillor aspirant of Sirajganj municipality, attacked Naushad Ahmed, president of Sirajganj district photographer association, as he tired to take a photo of ballot box stuffing at Rahmatganj Girls School polling station.
They broke his camera and took his two mobile phones.
In Thakurgaon, Masranga television correspondent Badrul Islam Biplab, also the secretary of district press club, and Jamuna TV reporter Partha Sarathy Das were attack when they went to see the ballot box stuffing at the Polytechnic Centre in the town.
In Munshiganj, ruling party men vandalised the camera of RTV.
A journalist was also assaulted in Singra of Natore.
Apart from assaults, journalists were threatened and obstructed yesterday.
Rajshahi police detained bureau chief of Bangla daily Samakal and Rajshahi correspondent of ATN news Saurav Habib, his cameraperson Rabiul Islam Khokan, and assistant Tariquzzaman Tuesday night.
Border Guard Bangladesh claimed that it took the three in as they had entered a BGB area without permission and later handed them over to police.
Police released them around 7:30pm yesterday.
However, sources claimed that Saurav was detained so that he could not monitor the polls in which his maternal uncle GA Mahira Bachhu was an AL rebel candidate.
The Daily Star correspondents were also prevented from entering polling centres and doing their job.
When The Daily Star reporter Mokammel Haque went to the Institute Government Primary School polling station at 7:50am, AL activists prevented him from entering.
They drove Mokammel away around 8:10am.
He managed to get in later and saw ballot box stuffing going on but was forced to leave again at 9:15am.
A number of AL activists accused Mokammel of carrying a fake ID card, which was actually issued by the Election Commission, and even policemen on duty there joined in with the AL activists.
“I had covered many elections in my life but never faced such a scary situation,” said Mokammel.
When The Daily Star photojournalist Rashed Shumon was taking photos at Jessore Police Lines polling centre in the morning, he was asked to leave.
He informed the returning officer and police officers of the matter but they did not do anything.
Our Chittagong correspondent Minhaj Uddin also faced obstacles while covering the polls.
Yesterday, journalists were not allowed inside the building where the three election commissioners have offices in Agargaon of Dhaka.
When asked, the EC secretary told a Bangla daily that they have stopped journalists from going in so that officials do not have any trouble in working.
However, delegations of AL and the BNP were allowed in.
Meanwhile, Article 19, an international human rights organisation working for the protection of freedom of expression, in a press release issued last night said there were at least 26 cases of journalist assault during yesterday's polls.
It observed that members of the electronic media, especially those in charge of taking photos and shooting video, were targeted. It said in 11 incidents equipment of journalists were damaged.
Article 19 covered 266 polling centres of 67 municipalities in 63 districts. It said there were at least 47 cases in which journalists were prevented, by force, from entering polling centres.
During polls to Dhaka city corporations earlier, several journalists, including a reporter of this paper, were assaulted by ruling party men.