Journalists of different print and electronic media yesterday gave a 72-hour ultimatum to the government to arrest those who attacked their colleagues during the students' movement for road safety.
They said if action wasn't taken, they would launch tougher programmes from August 11 that would include protest rallies across the country. The ultimatum was issued during a human chain of journalists formed in front of the capital's Jatiya Press Club at around 11:00am.
Several hundred reporters, photographers, sub-editors, online journalists and freelancers joined the human chain to protest against the attacks on media persons covering the movement.
Later in the day, Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu wrote to Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal to immediately bring the attackers under the purview of the law.
"You are well aware that some journalists sustained injuries during the students' movement for safe roads. Such attacks on journalists while performing professional duty are very unfortunate. This government is committed to giving safety to on-duty journalists," he said in a letter.
Inu requested Kamal to seriously consider the issue of on-duty journalists' being injured and sought his personal interference to bring the attackers to justice.
Speaking at the human chain, President of Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ) Molla Jalal demanded that punishment be given to the attackers.
“I urge the information and home ministers to sit with the journalists and try to identify those who unleashed the attack and ensure their punishment,” said BFUJ Secretary General Shaban Mahmud.
President of Dhaka Union of Journalists (DUJ) Abu Jafor Shurjo said, “I would like to ask the law enforcers that if you cannot ensure the security of journalists when they are discharging their duties then what is your duty? Journalists are also citizens of the country.”
Criticising Inu for not visiting the injured journalists, he asked, "You are the information minister but you did not enquire about the injured journalists, then what is your duty?”
General Secretary of Jatiya Press Club Farida Yesmin urged law enforcement agencies and the administration to sincerely try and find the reasons behind the attacks and bring the culprits to book.
"It will not be difficult for the police and administration to identify the culprits since they openly targeted and attacked the journalists," President of Dhaka Reporters Unity Saiful Islam said during the human chain.
Vice-President of BFUJ Syed Istiak Reza asked the government to bear the treatment costs of the injured journalists. He also urged the journalists to investigate and find the attackers and publish their names and identities if the state failed to do so.
"The time has come to resist those who attack journalists," said General Secretary of DUJ Sohel Haider Chowdhury.
They later brought out a procession at Topkhana Road.
Prior to this, photojournalists from all news agencies held a separate human chain, organised by Bangladesh Photojournalist Association, at the same place, demanding the arrest and punishment of the attackers.
A group of journalists also formed another human chain at Saarc Fountain yesterday morning and observed work abstention, demanding the arrest of the culprits. They said that journalists were not opponents to anybody, but are still coming under attack.
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque yesterday condemned the brutal attacks on journalists and recommended that the home ministry direct the concerned bodies to stop such attacks.
He urged the government to immediately identify the attackers and ensure appropriate punishment, according to a press release.
“Journalists are rights activists. Attack on them is unexpected. Nobody is above the law. NHRC is recommending the authorities concerned to ensure punishment for the attackers,” Reazul said in the release.
ARTICLE 19, a British human rights organisation with a specific mandate and focus on the defense and promotion of freedom of expression and freedom of information worldwide, expressed deep concerns about the repeated legislative and violent attacks on media workers and journalists in Bangladesh.
In a statement yesterday, it called for the protection of media workers, journalists, and also citizens peacefully participating in protests.
"Ensure safety, security and the protection of journalists, media workers, human rights defenders and citizens participating peacefully in protests," it urged the government. They also demanded the immediate release of the individuals detained for participating in protests and practicing journalism.
"Ensure that those responsible for attacks and violations on journalists and media workers, regardless of their political affiliations, be brought to account immediately and without delay," the statement said.