Ruling party men did not just resort to intimidating the BNP activists before and during the city corporation elections, but also used various intimidation tactics on the press wherever they found the journalists covering irregularities at the polling centres.
Till afternoon, ruling party activists physically assaulted at least seven journalists while threatening or intimidating dozen others while performing their duties at various polling stations.
The Daily Star reporters, Porimol Palma and Mahbub Rahman were both beaten by activists of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) near the Dhaka Medical College Hospital premises at around 1:15 pm. Porimol, who was the main focus of the attackers, lost his mobile phone and personal bag to these BCL men.
The two reporters were assigned to cover the Annex Building Polling Centre at the Dhaka University premises throughout the day just to see if the number of votes casted matched the number of people turning up at the polling centre.
As they were hanging around the polling centre from the morning, a police officer at around 10:00 am told them that they were not supposed to be stationed in one polling centre all the time. “When I asked him if there is any such rule, he said he was instructed to do so,” said Porimol Palma, “he asked us to leave and ended his conversation there.”
At one point, Porimol saw a “Bengali” looking voter with a name that is commonly used by Santal indigenous people getting inside the polling centre. When he came out, Porimol asked him if he was a Santal. The voter replied, “No. Come over there and let’s talk.” Porimol avoided him.
Then Porimol and Mahbub took their lunch break and went to the street side food stalls at the DMCH area. “Some 12 to 15 BCL men came up to us and dragged us out of the food stalls,” said Mahbub. These attackers slapped Mahbub in the face and told him to run.
On the other hand, the attackers were harassing Porimol with questions about who he was and what was he doing at the polling centre. Porimol’s mobile phone, identity card and bag was snatched and the attackers punched and kicked him at random. At one point they told him to run. Porimol saved himself by running away and taking a rickshaw back to The Daily Star office.
The Daily Star photographer Anisur Rahman witnessed a number of acts of intimidations from early morning. At 8:45 am, when he was taking pictures of thin presence of voters at the Siddhashawari Boys School, some youths popped up and charged him with questions as to why he was taking pictures of the absence of the voters. These youths soon surrounded him, pushed and prodded him. As the heat was rising, some of them told him to leave the school—which he did.
At the nearby Siddhaswari Girls School, Anis saw a presiding officer standing outside a polling room while some youths were busy inside. When he tried to get closer to the room, some youths told him to leave.
By the time Anis reached Segunbagicha School at 9.20 am, a photographer of Jugantor, Shamim Noor, was being harassed by some six to seven youths. These youths had taken away his camera. As other journalists came in, the youths finally returned his camera after deleting pictures of a polling agent being pushed out of the polling centre.
Ten minutes later, Anis was at the Bodhir School at Purana Paltan where some youths had held a senior reporter of Prothom Alo at knife point. This reporter’s crime was entering the polling centre.
“When we reached the school, they lowered the knife from the reporter’s back and then joked with him. The knife wielding guy pretended to be slicing an invisible fruit asking the reporter whether he would like to have a watermelon. Our arrival helped him get out of there,” said Anis.
Another reporter of the Daily Star, Rafi, saw ballot stuffing while visiting the Kamalapur Shere Bangla High School at 11:00 am. When he attempted to record the incident, the activists saw him and warned him of dire consequences. He stopped but witnessed the stuffing.
A gun man snatched away the camera of Palash, another photographer of The Daily Star in Kafrul at 1:00 pm. The photographer had taken pictures of this gun man along with the gun. After some negotiations, the gunman deleted his pictures and returned the camera.
Such pictures were reported from many other spots of Dhaka. Photograper Indrajeet Ghosh of New Age was beaten by ruling party men at Kabi Nazrul College centre at 10 am. He has been admitted to the DMCH.