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POST TIME: 26 January, 2017 11:08:57 PM
Police torture journalists
National committee declares fresh protest programmes
Staff Reporter

Police torture journalists

Flanked by fellows, Assistant Sub-Inspector Ershad beats up a journalist inside Shahbagh Police Station in the capital yesterday during the half-day hartal enforced by the ‘National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources’ demanding cancellation of the Rampal power plant project near the Sundarbans. Independent Photo

Two media persons were injured after they were dragged inside a police station and severely beaten by some men in uniform yesterday.
The injured duo—ATN News cameraman Abdul Alim and reporter Eshan Didar—were covering a police crackdown on the supporters of a half-day-long hartal called by the National Oil, Gas and Ports Protection Committee at Shahbagh at that time.  A police assistant sub-inspector was suspended over the attack on journalists.
Sarwar Alam, news editor of ATN, told The Independent that Alim was caught by some policemen who went berserk on seeing their action being filmed live on a TV camera. He was thrown to the ground and dragged inside Shahbagh police station along with Didar, who had rushed to help his colleague, Alam said.
The policemen then proceeded to beat the duo with batons and trampled them under their boots. Upon learning about their employees’ plight, ATN News contacted police higher ups, who immediately intervened to save the journalists from further torture. The injured media persons were taken to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) for treatment.
From the hospital, they were again taken to the police station to identify their tormentors from among the policemen posted there and then let off, Alam said.
Deputy commissioner (DC) of Ramna zone, Maruf Hossain, expressed regret over the incident and said he was personally ashamed.
An inquiry committee, led by ADC (administration) Navid Kamal, will investigate the incident and take action against the errant policemen, the DC added.
Hossain said an assistant sub-inspector, Ershad, was suspended after he was identified as one of the tormentors. Proceedings were being drawn against four other personnel of other police stations, he added.
“We identified 13 cops after seeing video footages of the incident and suspended one of them for torturing journalists,” the police DC told BSS.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists(BFUJ) leaders in a statement yesterday demanded exemplary punishment to the policemen involved with the incident of assaulting ATN Cameraperson Abdul Alim and Reporter Eshan Didar.
“We want an answer as to why did 20/30 policemen in coldblood dragged the two journalists inside the police station and savagely beaten them. We do not want only the closure of them in a public show but exemplary punishment,” BFUJ President Manzurul Ahsan Bulbul and Secretary General Omar Faruq said in the statement, strongly condemning the police assault on the two journalists.
Earlier, as a mark of protest against the police action on hartal supporters in Dhaka University area, the National Committee to Protect Oil-Gas-Natural Resources and Power-Port yesterday declared fresh programmes across the country on January 28 and a countrywide sit-in programme on February 25.
Sporadic clashes and confrontation with law enforcement personnel marked the half-day-long hartal observed by anti-Rampal and pro-Sundarbans activists in the capital.
The hartal called by the national committee was also complemented by protests in different places of the country.
Witnesses said activists of Pragatishil Chhatra Jote brought out a procession in front of TSC in Dhaka University around 7am and tried to march towards Shahbagh intersection. Police obstructed the procession in front of the National Museum, which ensued a scuffle. At one stage, the law enforcers fired rubber bullets, tear gas shells and water cannons to disperse the activists.
Nearly a hundred teargas shells were lobbed to keep the protesters at bay and five of them were put in lock-ups.  
The five protesters, who were detained in Shahbagh police station, were Topu and Ziaur Jewel, street performers of the band Betal, and Sundarbans activists Mizanur Rahman, Mahtab Uddin Ahmad and another who could not be identified.
When contacted, Shahbagh police station officer-in-charge Abu Bakar Siddique said that the protesters were detained because they were trying to obstruct the movement of vehicles in that important intersection of the capital.
At least 20 demonstrators were injured. Many of them were treated at Dhaka Medical College Hospital with minor injuries. Two journalists—ATN News cameraperson Abdul Alim and reporter Ishan Didar—were also injured in the incident. Witnesses said they were severely beaten by police after being taken inside Shahbagh police station.
When asked, the Shahbagh police station OC did not say anything about beating the journalists.
Prof. Anu Muhammad, convener of the national committee, said they considered the hartal as successful as a large number of people took to the street to support their demands. “Our main force is the common people, who have raised their voice against the Rampal power plant project. We’ll continue our protest with them,” he added.
Anu Muhammad strongly condemned the police action on the activists. “Our activists didn’t cross the line. They only tried to stop vehicles from moving, which is an integral part of any hartal, but eventually got beaten mercilessly by the police. We condemn this attitude.”