Bangladesh: ’17 journalists hurt in anti-Modi protests’

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DHAKA, Bangladesh

At least 17 journalists were injured during protests in Bangladesh against last week’s visit by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a global media rights group has said in a report .

The journalists “were injured by police or demonstrators,” said the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in a report on Monday, citing data shared by an advocacy group in Bangladesh.

There were massive protests in Bangladesh in the run-up to and during Modi’s visit on March 26 and 27, with at least 14 people killed and over 100 injured as police cracked down on demonstrations.

Modi was in Bangladesh for celebrations marking 50 years of the country’s independence and the birth centenary of its founder, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

His visit was vehemently opposed by critics who accuse him of fomenting religious polarization in India and encouraging persecution of minorities, particularly Muslims.

According to the CPJ, members of the ruling Awami League party’s youth wing, the Chhatra League, attacked anti-Modi protesters on March 25 and 26 in the capital Dhaka and “used sticks to beat journalists covering the protests.”

“Also on March 26, Dhaka police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into an anti-Modi protest, hitting and injuring journalists covering the demonstrations,” said the report, citing information from local media.

The majority of the injured journalists were photographers, the report added.

It said demonstrators and police officers “hit journalists with the butt of a pistol, sticks, iron rods, stones, and bricks, and journalists were shot with rubber bullets.”

“They sustained injuries including bruises, swelling, bleeding, broken bones, a dislocated shoulder, and a cracked skull,” according to the report.

Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, called for an end to such “outrageous attacks.”

“Police in Bangladesh must immediately end their outrageous attacks on journalists covering protests, and should protect them from abuse rather than inflicting it themselves,” he said.

“These blatant attacks on press freedom undermine a key pillar of the country’s democracy.”

– ‘Not true at all’

Police officials in Bangladesh rejected the allegations in the CPJ report, saying security personnel were actively trying to protect media workers during last week’s violence.

“Journalists who were in the field during the unrest tried to remain safe by staying behind the police. Our personnel were actually functioning as shields for journalists,” Iftekhairul Islam, additional deputy commissioner of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told Anadolu Agency.

“One of our top priorities during any such violent incidents is to protect journalists. It is not true at all that journalists were attacked by police.”

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