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Gabba day one: Great moments in press licensing, er, freedom

Ah yes, the home Test cricket season has begun. All the familiar trappings of the opening day.

The quiet buzz of the crowd still finding their seats as the first ball of the day is bowled. The sedate crack of willow on leather which echoes around the stadium as the ball is struck defensively to the leg side. The same act repeated five more times as Phil Jaques blocks Chaminda Vaas' inswingers. The return of the drizzle at the end of the over, the covers are driven on as the players and umpires walk off.

Yes, it's summer again. None for none after one over, rain stopped play.

Police bash media at cricket Test

An extraordinary situation in Chittagong on Sunday when police used excessive force to stop a press photographer from entering a cricket arena, followed with a sit-down protest by his colleagues on the pitch, delaying the start of the match between Bangladesh and Australia. This, followed by further clashes between the police and the journalists, putting one reporter in hospital in a coma.

I'm covering this story extensively in my cricket blog. If you're interested in this rather unlikely attack on the working media, I'll see you there.

More from Tuesday's Daily Star

Those policemen failed to demonstrate any understanding of the journalists' job. The latter have to keep pace with events and, as such, cannot afford to lose time. The job is demanding and it is always expected that those in charge of security will cooperate with the newsmen. But what we observed in Chittagong was the complete abandoning of the age-old practice of controlling a situation with courtesy and tactful persuasion; mind you, journalists were not armed, the police were, calling for sobriety on the part of the latter.
- from the Editorial, The Daily Star, 18.4.06

Plenty of coverage in Bangladesh's leading English-language newspaper today of the aftermath to Sunday's extraordinary clash between police and journalists at the Chittagong Divisional Stadium on the first day of the Second Test against Australia.

In Dhaka there were sit-down protests by members of the various press associations, with a four-hour stoppage planned for Wednesday unless policemen involved in Sunday's altercation are arrested and dismissed. Journalists all round the country took part in protest demonstrations on Monday - here is a roundup.

Meanwhile, the local media's boycott of the Test match continued yesterday, although there was little play to report because of the weather. Late Monday night the journalists decided to continue their boycott into the third day's play on Tuesday. Bangladesh Cricket Board officials and the venue co-ordinator met with the journalists yesterday and agreed to compensate for medical expenses and destroyed cameras.

The BCB delegation did not include Board president Ali Asghar. Rather than be in attendance at a home Test match against the world's number-one side, Asghar is in Abu Dhabi to watch the India v Pakistan series! Priorities, eh?

Police accepting the blame

It looks like the conflict between the Chittagong police and the Bangladesh sports writers may be heading to a speedy and favourable solution.

Reuters are quoting the inspector-general of Bangladesh police as saying that one police officer involved in the fracas at Divisional Stadium on Sunday has been recalled to Dhaka to face an inquiry, while another officer has been suspended.

According to Reuters, the police force regrets the incident and is offering to pay compensation for medical expenses and damaged tools of trade incurred by the journalists.

The Bangladesh Sports Writers Association is yet to declare its response. About three hundred media people protested in the streets of Dhaka today.

Anurup Titu, a reporter from the Daily Purbokon, is said to remain unconscious in hospital as the result of serious head injuries incurred during Sunday's altercation with police.

Oh, and there was a game of cricket on today, in between the rain. Australia is 151 for 2 at stumps on Day Two in reply to Bangladesh's first innings of 197, and Ricky Ponting has been fined 25 per cent of the mythical "match fee" for a Level One breach of the ICC Code of Conduct on Sunday.

"Torturer of journalists" - what they're saying about Chittagong

So now we know. Sunday's altercation between police and journalists at the Chittagong Divisional Stadium was the fault of the Bangladesh Government, according to opposition leader Sheikh Hasina.

Hasina, leader of the Awami League and former Prime Minister of Bangladesh, issued a statement on Monday remarking that "the BNP-Jamaat alliance government have revealed their true ugly face before the world as a torturer of journalists."

Hasina's complete statement, as posted on the Awami League website, reads:

Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament and Awami League president Sheikh Hasina has sternly denounced the barbaric police attack on the journalists who were covering the test match between Bangladesh and Australia cricket teams Sunday.

In a statement on Sunday, she said the BNP-Jamaat alliance government have revealed their true ugly face before the world as a torturer of journalists.

Sheikh Hasina said our journalists have a bright and appreciable role in shaping the current glorious image of our cricket before the world.

Specially, they played a key role in forming public opinion in favour of achieving the test status.

But the present government do not recognize the least of the journalists' contribution in the game rather have insulted them before the foreign guests with clubbing.

Government have harmed the image of our country by this brutality, Sheikh Hasina remarked recounting that 14 journalists have been killed and about 2,500 others injured in the tenure of the present government.

She expressed her condolences to the injured journalists and sought their quick recovery.

More reports on Sunday's fracas from the New Nation and, which has a series of photographs of the second incident.

Agency reports quote match referee Jeff Crowe as saying that the ICC will be "doing its best to ensure the safety of the Australian team". Err hello, how were the players in danger from this fracas? And does the ICC have any plans to do its best to ensure the safety of the Bangladesh team?

Not to mention ensuring a safe working envirionment for journalists and other members of the workforce at the Divisional Stadium...

For the record, here is Reporters sans Frontieres' profile for Bangladesh, which was ranked 151st out of 167 countries listed on the RSF Worldwide Press Freedom Index for 2005.

But that man with an arm full of cameras assaulted my boot!

Today's Daily Star publishes a press release, translated from Bengali to English, issued by the Chittagong Police Commissioner's office regarding yesterday's fracas at the Test. I present the translated release here as published:

It is for everybody's information that on the 16th of April, 2006 just before the start (9.45am) of the second Test between Bangladesh and Australia at the Divisional Stadium a person travelling on a CNG-driven three-wheeler and claiming himself a journalist without presenting any valid identity card tried to forcefully enter through the main gate where security personnel were carrying out vehicle checking and ensuring entry control. When the on-duty force requested him not to enter with the CNG taxi the person claiming to be journalist called the police names and at one stage he tried to pull the on-duty sergeant by his uniform towards the media box. This created an altercation between both parties. It was later found that the claimed to be journalist's name was Tinku. He claimed himself to be the photographer of Prothom Alo. That journalist without bringing this matter to the higher officials' notice entered the playing field along with a few journalists and threatened to spoil the international match and forcefully sat on the cricket pitch.

At this stage the high officials of police and BCB leaders tried to quell them and requested them to leave the field. The officials assured them that the matter would be solved with the presence of all parties during the lunch break. For that the international cricket match started 12 minutes late.

During the lunch break (12.45) the higher authority and BCB officials went near the media centre. Then that journalist along with other journalists misbehaved with police and BCB officials and reentered the ground from the media centre. After police high-ups and BCB officials requested them not to spoil the match by entering the ground those journalists physically assaulted them. When they again entered the playing field to spoil the match on-duty police compelled them to leave the ground for the sake of restoring law and order.

At that time when they scrambled out of the ground a couple of journalists got slightly injured.

Then they illegally entered the rooms of match referee and ESPN to create pressure to stop the match. The match referee ignoring them started the match. By the grace of the Almighty and with everyone's cooperation the match could be resumed despite delay. Such activities by a handful of people severely damaged the country's image. Everybody is requested to shun such unwanted activities for the smooth holding of the match and security of the players.

- Source: The Daily Star, 17.4.06

Delay Lunch Day 1: Police brutality, press corps sitting on pitch

Dear readers, opening the newspaper you must have been first taken by surprise, then by anger. The second Test between Bangladesh and Australia has got underway in Chittagong on Sunday, but no coverage on that.

Dear readers, we beg your apology for this. In fact, we have been forced to deprive you. We too love cricket as much as you do. But to protest the medieval barbarism that police carried out on the journalists, we did not have any way out other than this.

It was not possible for us to file reports while fellow journalists languished in hospital, victims of brutal police assault. To protest this unjust police torture the journalists immediately held a meeting and decided to boycott the Bangladesh-Australia series until the incident was fairly investigated and the guilty police officials were punished. All the national newspapers of the country, local newspapers in Chittagong and all private television channels will carry only the scoreboard of the series. We sincerely feel sorry for the readers for this inconvenience. At the same time we hope that you will also stand by us in this protest by perceiving the whole situation from a pragmatic standpoint.

- from the sports section of the Daily Star, 17.4.06

Media sit-in at ChittagongOf all the reports I have seen over the years of crowd disturbances at sporting events, this has to be one of the most amazing, and I'm not talking just cricket.

It all started before the game when photographer Shamsul Haq Tanku was reportedly assaulted by police after his request to bring his auto-rickshaw onto the perimeter of the field was refused. The story continues as told by Nabila Ahmed of the Fairfax press and by the Daily Star's Chittagong correspondents.

The extraordinary media protest and police reaction have, so far at least, received little coverage in Australia, where there has been more interest in the fact that Australia dismissed Bangladesh cheaply. The headline on the AAP wire report as posted to News Limited's Fox Sports website, treats it all rather flippantly. If you read the report from Sportal on the Cricket Australia site, the only dramatic event all day was the controversy of Aftab Ahmed's dismissal.

And you really have to laugh at not just the selection but the layout of the ABC's picture gallery of Day One action.

I trust we'll hear a lot more about this disgraceful episode. Cricket grounds need to be a safe place not just for players and spectators, but for the workforce who make their living at the Test in varying capacities. That said, it's a kneejerk over-reaction to say at this stage that international cricket should be banished from Chittagong because of this.

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