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Journalist hacked to death in Sharsha

In the latest incident in a series of particularly brutal attacks on journalists in Bangladesh, reporter Jamal Uddin was hacked to death in Sharsha, Jessore, last week, possibly for reporting on a local drug-smuggling syndicate, report Bangladesh-based Media Watch and other IFEX members

Uddin, 33, a correspondent for the Jessore-based Bangla language daily "Gramer Kagoj", was attacked by a group of unidentified assailants armed with sharp weapons on 15 June, report Media Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the International Press Institute (IPI). Local residents who came to his aid rushed Uddin to the hospital but he died from the inflicted wounds.

Uddin's editor, Mobinul Islam Mobin, said Uddin had reported on smuggling and drug trading along the border with India, which raised the ire of local syndicates, according to "The Financial Express".

A few months prior to the murder, the journalist had filed a complaint with the Sharsha police station after receiving death threats from Tota Miah, a local drug baron, says Media Watch, quoting news sources. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) raised the question of why the police had not provided protection to Uddin after he informed them about the death threats.

"Bangladesh News" subsequently reported that the journalist's father received warning calls from the suspected killers informing him that Uddin's children would meet the same fate as their father if the case that had been filed over the brutal killing was not withdrawn.

While local journalists organised a rally to protest the killing, IFJ urged authorities to ensure the safety of journalists in Bangladesh, given the recent spate of attacks. According to Media Watch, on 28 May, unidentified individuals armed with machetes attacked staff of the newspaper at its office in Dhaka, critically injuring three of them. On 19 May, Fazlur Rahman, staff reporter of the daily "Samakal", was attacked by assailants who hacked his right arm allegedly for reporting on an obscene dance performance on the campus.

"Unfortunately, successive governments in Bangladesh have failed to address the widespread climate of impunity in attacks against journalists. This has fuelled new episodes of violence and threatens Bangladeshi journalists' ability to practise investigative journalism," said IPI, noting that at least 24 journalists have been killed in Bangladesh since 1998, and not a single case has been closed.

The deteriorating environment for the press is all the more concerning, said CPJ, since 2012 is the first year Bangladesh has not been featured on CPJ's Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are murdered regularly and killers go free.

At the same time, CPJ echoed the International Crisis Group's concern about further unrest fuelled by a "longstanding pattern of antagonism" between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League and the opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP). Also troubling is a recently adopted constitutional amendment which stipulates that anyone criticising the Constitution may be prosecuted for sedition, says CPJ.

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