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JOURNALIST GUNNED DOWN; TWO OTHERS TARGETED

Unidentified assailants shot and killed journalist Harunur Rashid (alias Khokan) on the evening of 2 March as he drove to the offices of his newspaper "Dainik Pubanchal" in Khulna, southwest Bangladesh, report Media Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF). Rashid, a senior reporter for the daily, was driving his motorcycle to the newspaper's office in Iqbalnagar when he was struck in the chest by gunfire. He was rushed to a local hospital but doctors pronounced him dead on arrival, says Media Watch. Rashid, an active member of the Khulna Journalists Union and Khulna Press Club, leaves a wife and two children.

The next day, police arrested three suspects in Khulna, two of whom are allegedly involved in terrorist activities, says Media Watch. RSF notes that Rashid had been investigating the activities of radical left-wing groups and organised crime in the region and had been the target of death threats on three occasions. He had written articles about links between the outlawed Purba Banglar Communist Party and weapons and drug trafficking along the Indo-Bangladeshi border, says RSF.

Media Watch says ten journalists have been killed in southwest Bangladesh since 1994. All of them were killed primarily because of their reporting on extremist groups, smuggling activities and outlawed political parties, the group says.

Meanwhile, Media Watch reports at least two other incidents in the last three days in which Bangladeshi journalists were either threatened or assaulted. On 2 March, Shamyol Sarker, a reporter for daily "Ajker Kagoj," was kidnapped by a group of unidentified men who attempted to drown him. He escaped. In Chittagong, Rafiqul Bahar, a senior reporter for daily "Prothom Alo," received a death threat on 3 March from a group believed to be comprised of members of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Media Watch says the threat came after Bahar reported on 26 February that a wanted terrorist belonging to the ruling party had attended a meeting of government ministers to discuss the law and order situation.

Last year, two journalists were killed in Bangladesh, says the International Press Institute (IPI) in its recently released survey of world-wide press freedom (www.freemedia.at). Describing the numerous incidents of attacks on journalists during 2001 as "vicious and savage," the group says the government has given the impression of condoning the attacks by remaining silent on the issue. ">http://www.freemedia.at/wpfr/world.html">www.freemedia.at). Describing the numerous incidents of attacks on journalists during 2001 as "vicious and savage," the group says the government has given the impression of condoning the attacks by remaining silent on the issue.

For more information, e-mail Media Watch: media@bdonline.com or see www.rsf.org.


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