IFEX demands action for attacks on journalists


BANGKOK, AFP

An international press freedom alliance Friday called for the Thai and Bangladeshi governments to investigate serious assaults against crusading journalists from their countries.

The two graft-busting journalists, who were badly injured in attacks apparently intended to silence them, addressed the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) conference held in the Thai capital this week.

The IFEX delegates said they were extremely concerned about the treatment of Thai newspaper editor Amnat Jongyotying and Bangladeshi reporter Tipu Sultan.

Amnat was shot and nearly killed last year in an attack that he believes was made in retribution for his newspaper’s aggressive reporting on organized crime in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai.

Tipu Sultan, an award-winning correspondent for the United News of Bangladesh, accused a member of the Bangladeshi parliament of sending a gang to batter him with baseball bats, hockey sticks and iron rods in January.

“We urge Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh to investigate the case of Tipu Sultan and to bring to justice those who committed the crime,” the IFEX resolution said.

“Furthermore, we urge Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to ensure that those who attempted to assassinate Amnat Jongyotying be prosecuted.

“We call upon both leaders to ensure that the principles of press freedom are upheld in their respective countries.”

The two journalists told the conference Thursday that more pressure needed to be heaped on their governments to force them to act on the assaults, which have both gone unpunished.

“Until now I am still under threat,” said Amnat, editor of the Chiang Mai-based daily Phak Nua Raiwan. “That’s why sometimes I request police protection.”

“I appeal for international pressure because only this can work. Local (pressure) does not work much … international pressure will bring more attention,” he said.

IFEX, an alliance of 50 non-government organizations, promotes freedom of expression and press freedom around the world.

This year’s IFEX conference, held under the banner “Bringing Down the Walls: Open Information for the New Millennium”, is the first the group has held in Asia.