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Report: Bangladesh is Most Dangerous Place for Journalists - 2004-05-03

A number of journalists have died or been seriously wounded over the past year while covering the war in Iraq and its aftermath, but according to a new study, Bangladesh is the most dangerous place in the world to be a journalist.

The study says not a day went by in 2003 without a Bangladeshi journalist being physically attacked or threatened with death.

While no journalist actually was murdered in Bangladesh last year, the study says more than 200 were physically assaulted or received death threats, 15 were arrested and the offices of 15 news organizations and press clubs were attacked.

The study was contained in the annual report, released Monday, of "Reporters Without Borders," which is also known by its French initials, RSF. The report condemns the murder of at least 16 journalists throughout Asia in 2003 and the harassment, arrest, assaults and threats against hundreds more.

RSF says the Bangladeshi government does little to stop such violence because officials are very often involved.

Many journalists are targeted for reporting on the country's endemic corruption, a problem in many developing nations. But the head of RSF's Asia division, Vincente Brossel, says that in Bangladesh, the authorities turn a blind eye to attacks on reporters.

"The difference in Bangladesh is that because of huge impunity, every militant, every businessman, every local politician is ready to put in danger the life of the journalist because you will not face any problem," he said.

Stories alleging corruption are not the only cause of attacks against the media. Bangladeshi press advocates say the country's political parties often turn to criminals and thugs to exert pressure on political opponents and voters. They say violence is directed against reporters who try to write about such abuses.

"Especially during election time, the major political parties will take the help of those underground political elements to win over elections," explained Naim Islam Khan, the president of the Bangladesh Center for Development, Journalism and Communication. "And this patronage was being uncovered by the journalists."

Mr. Khan says the best way to combat the threat against journalists is for media organizations in Bangladesh to band together and petition the government as a unified bloc.

The Bangladeshi government has so far issued no response to the RSF report.