ARTICLE 19 remains deeply concerned over the unsolved murder case of Sagar Sarowar and Meherun Runi, two leading journalists in Bangladesh, who were killed a decade ago, on 11 February 2012. After a decade, the murders have only been met with a continued failure by the authorities to conduct effective and transparent investigations, resulting in complete impunity.
Sagar Sarowar was the News Editor of Mashranga Television and Meherun Runi was a Senior Reporter for ATN Bangla, two leading satellite television channels in Bangladesh. The couple were stabbed to death in front of their five-year-old son in their rented flat in West Razabazar, Dhaka in the early hours of 11 February 2012.
After the murders, Nowsher Alam Roman, the brother of Meherun Runi, filed a murder case at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar Police Station, Dhaka. As of today, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) of Bangladesh Police has failed to submit the investigation report into the murders a total of 84 times.
At least eight accused people have been arrested in connection with the killings. While the arrested have been remanded several times, none of them have confessed their involvement in the murder and no formal charges have been made. There has also been no indication that these arrests followed any line of investigations concerning the journalistic activities of Sagar Sarowar and Meherun Runi.
Today, a group of five UN Special Rapporteurs marked the ten years of injustice with a statement that ‘expressed their deep concern at the failure of the Bangladeshi authorities to complete an investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice’. They urged the government to conduct and complete prompt, thorough, independent and effective investigations and bring perpetrators to justice for the murder of Sagar Sarowar and Meherun Runi and other killings of journalists and human rights defenders in Bangladesh.
“This unsolved case is a shameful example of strong existence of a culture of impunity and questions the judiciary system of the country, where the killers go free. It indicates the failure of the state in protecting the journalists and ensuring the security of the journalists of the country and bringing justice,” said Faruq Faisel, Regional Director, ARTICLE 19 South Asia.
“No progress of investigations into this murder case clearly threatens the safety of journalists, challenges the state’s protection mechanism and evidentially lets the perpetrators go free, making the government unaccountable,” he added.
This is just one of the many crimes against journalists in Bangladesh, where justice is delayed for years and such unresolved cases turns into injustice for the victims. In 2021, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) ranked Bangladesh 11th on its Global Impunity Index for countries with the most unsolved crimes for the murder of journalists.
During Bangladesh’s third review under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2018, the government supported eight recommendations related to the safety and security of journalists, including a recommendation to investigate all cases of murder and bring perpetrators to justice.
ARTICLE 19 urges Bangladesh to uphold its commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by conducting and completing impartial, prompt, thorough, independent and effective investigations into the murders of Sagar Sarowar and Meherun Runi, including by bringing perpetrators to justice and ensuring appropriate restitution, compensation and assistance to their families. We also call on Bangladesh to create an enabling environment for journalists and other media workers to exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression, and to develop and implement strategies for combating impunity for attacks and violence.