Shelu Akand, who will continue to be hospitalized with both legs in plaster for at least three more weeks, came close to losing his life when he was attacked by around ten thugs on the night of 18 December.
“[They] attacked me with metal bars,” he told RSF from his hospital bed. “They broke both my legs and dumped me near the Brahmaputra river, thinking I was dead. I owe my life to locals who later rescued me and informed the police.”
A reporter for the daily newspaper Palli Kantho Protidin and the magazine Bangla Bazar Patrika, Akand had been investigating the activities of a Jamalpur municipal councillor, Hasanuzzaman Khan, and his son, Rakib Khan.
In particular, he was due to testify against them as a witness of the beating that Mustafa Monju, Kaler Kantho’s Jamalpur correspondent, received on 26 May 2019. The Khans, who instigated this attack, had repeatedly threatened Akand with reprisals if he testified. After Akand’s brother filed a complaint, the police finally arrested Rakib Khan but not his father.
“The violence to which Shelu Akand was subjected is absolutely terrifying and the police should have given him protection both as a witness and as a journalist,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “We call on the Jamalpur prosecutor’s office to prosecute all those responsible for this brutality, starting with municipal councillor Hasanuzzaman Khan, who must not benefit from political protection. The credibility of the rule of law in Bangladesh is at stake.”
Akand was initially taken to Jamalpur general hospital but was later transferred to the National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopaedic Rehabilitation in Dhaka because of the seriousness of his injuries. Doctors there told RSF that he will have to undergo additional surgery.
Bangladesh is ranked 150th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index, four places lower than in 2018.