CAN WE TRUST the news coming out of Bangladesh – especially the reporting of how the country is dealing with the Covid pandemic? A recent attack on a journalist has raised fears that the media is now anything but free.
Shahparan Sumun is the Sylhet news correspondent of UK-based London Bangla and LB24. He films news stories using a mobile smartphone. On 3rd August he went to the office of the Mayor of Sylhet, where there was a briefing on measures being taken to reduce the number of Covid infections and to improve medical services in Sylhet – in particular dealing with the alleged shortage of oxygen in the area.
When Sumon arrived, TV journalist Ikramul Kabir asked him to leave. A number of other journalists then began shouting condemnation of online TV and physically attacking Sumon. The following reporters were seen punching and/or kicking Sumon: Mahbubur Rahman Ripon, Saidur Rahman Russell (Jamuna TV), Sabuj Ahmed (Dipta TV), Digen Sinha (camera operator for Shomoy TV) and Iqbal Munshi (ATN Bangla). Others who joined in the attack were not identified.
As the physical attack continued, the other reporters then tried to take Sumon’s phone, before locking him in a room – essentially kidnapping him. After two hours, Sumon was released. He went to the Sylhet Kotwali Model Police Station and gave the police a full report of what had happened to him. He had witnesses to and video footage of the attack. It is not yet known whether the police will investigate the matter.
The mainstream broadcasting companies have an interest in maintaining their monopoly over news gathering and reporting – in order to keep their licenses and to protect their investment in studios, equipment and star journalists. However, journalists operating over electronic media, who have lower costs, also have a story to tell. There is a conflict between the two forms of reporting – but it cannot be resolved by physical violence.
●Watch the attack on Shahparan Sumun:
London Bangla and LB24 have condemned the attack on their journalist in the strongest terms. The officers of the London Bangla Press Club are now in talks with the Sylhet Press Club in an attempt to resolve the crisis.
●Watch East London’s weekly news magazine programme,
live at 10pm every Tuesday and on demand all week:
The Tuesday Show