Reporters Without Borders urges that an international investigative commission be formed to identify those responsible for the murder of a journalist couple last year.
Sagar Sarowar and his wife, Meherun Runi, were stabbed to death in their apartment in the capital city of Dhaka on 11 February 2012. Sarowar was the news editor for Maasranga Television and Runi was working for ATN Bangla.
“The investigation of the case by the ‘Rapid Action Battalion’ has stalled,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The RAB has insisted on its commitment to the case, but its record of human-rights abuses should be enough by itself to place the investigation in other hands.”
The organization noted that investigators have repeatedly interrogated the murdered couple’s six-year-old son, Megh.
Both journalists’ families have demanded an independent and transparent investigation. In support of their position, Reporters Without Borders requests Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to remove the RAB from the case and to support establishment of an international commission.
The press freedom organization said that creation of a commission would send a clear signal of commitment to the fight against impunity in crimes against media workers. Increasingly, impunity is threatening freedom of expression in Bangladesh.
The press freedom organization notes that the prime minister herself, in 2009, had demanded the assistance of the FBI and Scotland Yard in investigating a massacre of members of the military by mutineers.
At the time of the journalists’ murders, Shahara Khatun, the then-interior minister, had said that those responsible would be arrested within 48 hours. But they remain at large.
A demonstration in support of the families of the murdered couple was held in Dhaka and transmitted live by webcast. (See here)
Journalist colleagues of the couple have repeatedly demanded progress in the investigation. In the absence of additional effort by the home affairs ministry and the police inspector general, media workers said they wouldlaunch their own investigation.
On 9 October, Home Affairs Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir announced the arrests of seven suspects: Tanvir Rahman, an acquaintance of Runi; Palash Rudra, a security guard at the couple’s residence; and Rafiqul Islam, Bakul Miah, Masum Mintu, Kamrul Hasan Arun and Md Sayeed, alleged robbers.
Journalists and relatives of the murdered couple immediately denounced these arrests as an attempt to shield those really responsible for the crime.
The year 2012 was especially deadly for media workers in Bangladesh. Two other journalists, Jamal Uddin, a reporter for the Bengali-language newspaper, Gramer Kagoj; and Talhad Ahmed Kabid, a correspondent for Dainik Narsingdi Bani, were killed on 15 June and 23 October, respectively. No suspects have been identified.
These murders occurred against a backdrop of attacks and threats aimed at media workers. Government or police authorities are responsible for this climate of intimidation, which is the main reason that Bangladesh has fallen from 129th to 144th place in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.