Bangladesh Media Protest over Journalist Couple’s Murder
On February 11, married journalists Meherun Nahar Runi and Golam Mustofa (Sagar) Sarowar were stabbed to death in their home in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Currently, no arrests have been made in the case, and a possible motive remains undisclosed.
On the day of the murders Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheik Hasina called for an arrest to be made within 48 hours. Fifteen days later the deputy police commissioner reported that a motive for the murders was almost certain, but could not be disclosed for the sake of the investigation. The commissioner also stated that more than two individuals had killed Runi and Mustofa, and at least seven individuals were involved in the crime. According to the Global Post, rumors in Dhaka about the motive for Runi and Sarowar’s deaths theorize that the couple was killed because they were working to expose illegal land-grabbing by a powerful corporation.
- Timeline of Events
- 2/11 – Golan Mostafa (Sagar) Sarowar and Meherun Runi are murdered in their home.
- 2/22 – Human chain protest at Jahangirnagar University.
- 2/27 – At noon hundreds of journalists cease their work in protest.
- 2/28 – Bangladesh High Court issues directives that minimize journalist investigation.
- 3/1 – Journalists at the National Press Club stage token hunger strike.
- 3/3 – Human chain in Bonn, Germany around the office of the United Nations; memo submitted to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.
- 3/11 – Human chain formed in front of Jatiya Press Club, including the couple’s only son and Runi’s brother, who filed the murder case.
- 3/16 – Journalists host token hunger strike and protest in the southern city of Barisal.
- 3/18 – Journalists rally at the National Press Club and schedule another protest at the Ministry of Home Affairs on 4/8.
Both Runi and Mustofa were well-known journalists for private TV stations in Dhaka. Runi was a senior reporter for ATN Bangla Television, and Sarowar was editor of Maasranga Television. Since their deaths, it has been estimated that hundreds of journalists have gone on nationwide strikes calling for the killers’ arrest and an increase in the safety of reporters.
At noon on February 27, at the urging of Iqbal Sobhan Chowdury, President of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists, hundreds of Bangladeshi journalists for print, online, and broadcast media ceased their work for the day and published nothing as a sign of protest. Strikes hosted by other journalist groups including the Dhaka Union of Journalists, the National Press Club, and the Dhaka Reporters’ Unity continue to be observed across the country.
On March 3 the case received more international attention when Bangladeshi expatriates and former colleagues of Sarowar in Bonn, Germany formed a human chain around the city’s United Nations office. The group submitted a memo to Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, requesting intervention to speed the investigation and to ensure transparency in the matter.
International Press Institute executive director Alison Bethel McKenzie has also urged the government of Bangladesh to take measures to stop violence against journalists and amend or abolish the existing libel law, to improve and ensure press freedom in the country.
According to Committee to Protect Journalists, 18 journalists have been killed in Bangladesh since 1992. Most victims had been investigating crime and corruption before their deaths. Twelve of these cases involved a motive connected to their work, but only three have won convictions.