Outrage amid the grief as another journalist is killed in Bangladesh

Picture shows the burial of Golam Rabbani Nadim, attended by thousands of mourners.

The Bangladeshi journalistic community has expressed shock and outrage over the death of another of their colleagues in mysterious circumstances.

Golam Rabbani Nadim, aged 42, pictured, was killed in an attack by several men armed with machetes and steel bars while travelling home on a motor scooter in Jamalpur district, north of Dhaka. The attack was witnessed by a fellow journalist who was unable to intervene. Mr Nadim was the Jamalpur correspondent for the Banglanews24.com website and Ekattor Television news channel. He suffered a previous attack last April.

His family and colleagues have blamed local politicians and officials, who they say were unhappy with his reporting.

Police say a number of people have been arrested and are being questioned, including a prominent local politician.

Mr Nadim is the second second journalist to be killed in Bangladesh this year. The international media watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists reports that twelve journalists have been killed in the country in the last 10 years, with no-one brought to justice. It calls Bangladesh the most violent country for journalists in Asia. “It takes real courage to be a journalist in Bangladesh,” said the committee’s executive director Ann Cooper after a recent visit.

The CJA’s SYED BADRUL AHSAN pays tribute to the bravery of the journalistic community in Bangladesh:

Every death diminishes those of us who have the good fortune of yet being alive. And when a journalist is murdered by elements against whose corruption he writes, it is a sign of how cavalier the instinct is in those who think nothing of striking at the principles which underpin the freedom of the media.

In recent years, journalists have been done to death in Malta, Russia, Africa and Latin America. They have been hauled to court on spurious charges in Europe and Asia and the Middle East. Here in Bangladesh we have just been made to go through the tragedy of yet another brave journalist losing his life at the hands of goons unhappy with his reports on corruption.

Golam Rabbani Nadim was only forty-two, a time when the future called out to him. To all intents and purposes, he was on his way to making a mark in Bangladesh’s journalism, for there was the spirit of inquiry in him. In a society where the rule of law is observed more in the breach than in the observance, Nadim gave us hope.

Journalism is a mission

Away from the nation’s capital, in rural clime – and our villages and unions have regularly been dangerous territory for our media – Nadim’s conscience was clear. He had to let the country know, inasmuch as he could, of the web of corruption which keeps tainting the political classes with the venality involved in it.

Journalism is a lonely job for those brave enough to speak truth to power. For journalists, there are no friends out there. Yet journalism is a mission, even in these days when the media in our country remains stymied by fears of the law, of the powerful, of elements forever ready to have the handcuffs clamped on newsmen who have the boldness to call them to account for their deeds and misdeeds.

Nadim did not belong in the region of fear, as his reports showed all too patently. His last report on the corruption indulged in by individuals he believed needed to be penalised by the law ended up putting an end to his young life.

Should we be raising that old demand, that justice be done, once again? In the Shagor-Runi instance, that demand has been made over the years and yet nothing has come to light or been permitted to come to light. The darkness of injustice has loomed long and heavy over us, and not just in the matter of the murder of media people.

But when it is a journalist who loses his life at the hands of a cabal of bad men, our tragedy turns inestimable. The reason ought to be obvious: that journalist, in this instance Nadim, was the voice of men and women who have patiently and quietly and in fear observed men getting corrupted around them. In Nadim, they had a voice.

Impaling the truth

That voice has now been stilled. We have been assured by a minister that those guilty of the crime will not go unpunished, that as soon as a charge sheet is filed against the accused, the accused will lose his position in the ruling Awami League. But should the wheels of justice not move on their own, in spontaneity?

Must the law enforcers wait till charges are filed against an accused and a charge sheet is prepared? The law, in a society yet professing belief in its majesty, will not wait before someone officially comes forth with the curious explanation that it has been broken and that those who broke it can now be proceeded against.

The law must take its own course. We in this country, citizens who have been witness to the myriad crimes committed against journalists, crimes not punished, will expect the law to be brought into play without impediment and without consideration of the long reach of the arms of the accused as we wait for the dead Golam Rabbani Nadim to come by justice.

To shoot a journalist, to bludgeon him to death, to put him in handcuffs is to impale the truth. The truth needs to be upheld, for these are not medieval times. When a journalist files reports or sets out a commentary, it ought to be good reason for those who govern and those who would govern to sit up and take notice.

Silencing the media, through draconian laws or the murderous instincts of villainous men, drills bad and deep holes in the social structure. Nadim’s murder should be a time for our media to begin to reclaim the ground it has lost over the years.

This is no time for partisan journalism or angry journalism or the silence of the media. It is time for the corrupt to know that when journalists like Golam Rabbani Nadim are around, they will not and must not sleep easy.