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#metoo: Daily Star senior staff apologizes as newspaper probes sexual assault

  • Published at 10:44 am November 23rd, 2018
#metoo movement
Women journalists stand in solidarity in front of the National Press Club with sexual assault victims on Friday, November 16, 2018 Syed Zakir Hossain/ Dhaka Tribune

Former employee says her dream job was shattered by a boss who molested her

The English-language national newspaper, The Daily Star, has announced that it has opened a probe into allegations of sexual harassment—made by a former member of staff against one of its employees.

The newspaper said in a statement last week that it was shocked by the allegations.

In a message posted online by several employees, the Star said it “would like to state in no uncertain terms that The Daily Star follows a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.”

It said that they were seriously investigating the allegations that had surfaced on social media.

In a Facebook post on November 14, the English daily’s former reporter Alpha Arzu accused the then-chief reporter of sexually harassing her. She also accused Star’s Executive Editor (Online) Enam Ahmed of openly making dirty remarks to women in the office.

Enam Ahmed issued a public apology on Facebook on November 16, saying he was taking full responsibility for his personal comments.

Also Read- #metoo: ‘I asked him about my salary, and I was called to his office’

‘Women were vulnerable there’

Alpha wrote in her post that when she joined The Daily Star, she had had five years of reporting experience. Star was a dream job for her.

“From day one I saw that female journalists were in a vulnerable condition there. They are not assigned to good beats, they’re always told that they can’t do anything,” she wrote.

“A famous news editor, Enam Ahmed, currently executive editor online, used to openly make objectionable remarks about women. Nobody said anything. We needed our jobs.”

When the then-chief reporter offered to give her a lift at a late hour, Alpha says she did not imagine he could have had any bad intentions.

“On the surface he had good relations will all reporters, men and women. So I never thought badly of him,” she wrote.

She said she was unable to describe the incident that took place in the backseat of the chief reporter’s car.

Alpha said that a few days after the incident, she left the newspaper to work for another Dhaka-based national daily.

Also Read- #metoo: ‘I have been carrying this burden for 11 years’

Enam Ahmed wrote two days after this, saying he did not remember the incidents the victim was referring to, which had taken place almost 10 years ago.

“In the light of allegations... I would like to apologize sincerely for any of my behavior in the past that may have made my female coworkers feel unwelcome or objectified,” he wrote.

“I take full responsibility for any personal comments I might have made to my female colleagues which are inappropriate in the workplace and detrimental to gender equality and visibility in the workplace.”

Star issued a notice, undersigned by the editor and publisher, saying it was seriously investigating the allegations and had a zero-tolerance policy against sexual misconduct.

Alpha in subsequent posts has alleged that the reporter she accused has been trying to hack into her Facebook profile. He has also called her over phone, asking her to withdraw the allegations, she said.

In recent weeks, #metoo has gathered steam in Bangladesh. It started in October with Bangladeshi-Irish model Maksuda Akhter Prioty, who was allegedly sexually harassmed by a businessman-politician at his office in Dhaka in 2015—a year after she was crowned Miss Ireland.

However, the accused, Rongdhanu Group Chairman Md Rafiqul Islam, has denied the allegations.

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