On the eve of International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists 2021- ARTICLE 19 today hosted an online event titled "Sagar-Runi murder case: investigation and trial".
Participants including journalists, lawyers, human rights activists, and civil society representatives took part in it.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted a Resolution at its 68th session in 2013, which proclaimed the 2 November as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (IDEI).
The Resolution urged Member States to implement definite measures countering the present culture of impunity to ensure accountability, bring to justice perpetrators of crimes against journalists and media workers. Sohrab Hassan, Joint Editor at Prothom Alo and Nadia Sharmeen, Senior Reporter at Ekattor Television spoke at the webinar presided by Faruq Faisel, Regional Director for ARTICLE 19 South Asia. The event highlighted the situation of freedom of expression and violence against journalists in Bangladesh.
ARTICLE 19, in 2020, recorded 631 incidents of violation of the right to freedom of expression, including assault, harassment and lawsuit, in Bangladesh.
Around 80 percent (79.95 percent) or 454 incidents of violation of rights involved legal harassment. During this time, 103 incidents of physical assault were recorded. Outside the capital Dhaka, attacks on free speech are more common in districts and rural areas, which is 77.78 percent of the total incidents, while at the national level it is 22.22 percent.
Meanwhile, ARTICLE 19 recorded that in the first nine months (January – September) in 2021, one journalist was killed and two journalists were kidnaped. During this period, 241 journalists suffered 137 incidents of physical assaults and abuse. 55 cases were lodged against 153 journalists, of whom 18 were arrested immediately. Of the filed cases, 48 journalists were charged in 25 cases under the Digital Security Act, while 89 other journalists were victimized in 24 vexatious cases following publishing news reports. ARTICLE 19 also recorded 6 alleged defamation cases against 18 journalists in this time.
Sohrab Hassaan said, "It is the responsibility of the state to ensure the safety of journalists. Having the security of free speech and writing greatly reduces the risk of being harassed. The Constitution guarantees "freedom of the press" as well. Unfortunately, journalist couple Sagar-Runi did not get this security. Now the state is also failing to prosecute their murders."
On February 11, 2012, Sagar Sarwar, news editor of private TV channel Maasranga, and his wife Meherun Runi, a senior reporter at ATN Bangla television, were murdered brutally inside their apartment at Raja Bazar area in Dhaka. Runi’s brother Nawsher Alam filed a murder case with Sher-E-Bangla Nagar Police Station.
Till 25 October 2021, the investigation officers took 82 dates and still failed to submit the probe report of this case.
A High Court bench asked the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) to submit the probe report of the case filed over the murders of the journalist couple by 24 November 2021.
Journalst Nadia Sharmeen was attacked on April 6 in 2013 while performing her professional duties at a rally of Hefazot-e-Islam Bangladesh in the capital. At present, she is a senior journalist at Ekattor Television, Nadia said, ‘There has been no trial for the attack on me. The police filed a case in this regard. However, no one has contacted me on this issue since September 1, 2013. Demanding the formation of a speedy trial tribunal to try cases of violence against journalists, she said, "Journalists are the only victims of killings, assaults and lawsuits for professional reasons. So there is a difference between violence against journalists and other crimes."
In his speech, Faruq Faisel said, ‘’Megh, the only son of murdered journalist couple Sagar-Runi, was 5 years-old when his parents were killed at home. He is now 14, but investigators could not make headway in the case till now. Families and colleagues of the murdered journalist couple now doubt whether they will ever be able to find justice. They expressed disappointment over the lack of progress by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), assigned to probe the case, and its repeated time prayers for submitting the probe report to the court.’’
Faruq Faisel called upon the government to ensure the investigation and trial of the murder case with the utmost priority.