Sumi Khan, Chittagong correspondent of Shaptahik 2000 investigative magazine, was stabbed and critically wounded in the Nandan Kanon area of Chittagong on 27 April 2004. The attack took place at about 10:30 p.m. as she was travelling to a courier service to send a report to her editor.
Her assailants, three men in an auto-rickshaw, attempted to drag her into their vehicle; when she resisted, they stabbed her several times. As people in the vicinity began to come to her aid, the attackers grabbed her handbag and drove away. Khan lost consciousness and was taken to hospital for treatment. In the weeks leading up to the attack she had received several anonymous threatening phone calls, warning her not to “defame” people in her reports. Khan received more threatening phone calls as she recuperates at home.
No one has yet been arrested or charged in connection with the attack. Between 10 and 12 March 2005 Sumi Khan has received written threats mailed to her office, which purported to be from local Islamist groups whose actvities she had been reporting on. The letter told her to immediately retract all the articles that she had written on Islamist groups, and threatened grenade attacks on her home and office if she ever reported on these issues again.
In December 2005 Sumi Khan and a number of other journalists from Chittagong, police and government officials and magistrates from across the country received death threats. According to press reports, the journalists and officials were threatened in a letter which was delivered to the Chittagong Press Club, an organization for journalists, in the southern port city of Chittagong. The letter, purportedly from the banned Islamist group Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), also allegedly contained a threat to bomb the Chittagong Press Club. The threats are believed to be part of a campaign by some Islamist groups to destabilize democratic society in Bangladesh. By threatening journalists, the judiciary and political opposition figures, as well as government officials, it seems that Islamist groups are attempting to undermine freedom of speech and belief, political expression and the judicial system. The government has reportedly ordered that a police guard be put in place at the Chittagong Press Club and also recently arrested a number of suspected members of the JMB. However, as far as English PEN is aware, there has been no investigation into the death threats, and no protection has been provided for those named in the letter.
Sumi Khan has written a number of investigative articles about the involvement of local politicians and religious groups in kidnapping, land seizure, and attacks on members of minority communities. Her status as a human rights defender puts her at serious risk within Bangladesh. Victims of threats and attacks are left unprotected; their assailants, believed to be mercenaries hired by people implicated in the journalists’ reports, can often count on the support of influential politicians who discourage the police from arresting the culprits. This cycle allows harassment with impunity, and is a major cause of continued human rights violations in Bangladesh.
Sumi Khan is 34-years-old, she’s a mother of two young children.
Despite the fact that Bangladesh is one of the world’s most dangerous countries to be a journalist — over 200 were attacked in 2004 — and despite her injuries, Khan is determined to continue her work, declaring, “As long as I am alive I will keep working.”
Sources: AI and RSF
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/prisoners/sumikhan/