Brother of Investigative Journalist Beaten in Bangladesh over Articles about Graft

Published: 24 March 2023

Zulkarnain Saer KhanMahinur Ahmed Khan was attacked because of his brother's reporting. (Photo: courtesy of Zulkarnain Saer Khan)


Four men in Bangladesh have attacked the brother of an OCCRP-affiliated journalist, telling him while they were beating him with iron bars in front of his home in Dhaka that he is being punished for his brother’s critical reporting about Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her government.

London-based Zulkarnain Saer Khan Sami said his younger brother Mahinur Ahmed Khan was attacked on March 17 but he only found out on Thursday because his brother’s family was afraid that media coverage could prompt another, fatal attack.

Mahinur Ahmed Khan told authorities he stepped out of his house in the evening to get some groceries when someone tapped on his back. When he turned around, four men started beating him with iron bars as they filmed the attack with a mobile phone.

“Your brother writes against the prime minister, against the government? He’s a journalist? Now you’ll see,” he said they shouted while beating him until he was no longer able to move.

Investigative journalist Saer Khan has previously been targeted for reporting about corruption.

He worked on an award-winning Al Jazeera documentary about state graft, favoritism and human rights abuses in Bangladesh and as soon as it aired in 2021, authorities in Dhaka labeled the film as false and politically motivated.

A smear campaign was launched against Saer Khan that accused him of terrorism, various crimes and even rape of a minor. He fled Bangladesh, settled in the U.K. and has since worked with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, OCCRP, on another investigation that revealed more corruption in Hasina’s circle. The story again rocked Bangladesh and has prompted investigations.

Apparently unable to reach Saer Khan in the U.K., forces in Bangladesh appear to have turned on his family there.

"It's cowardly to attack an innocent family member of a journalist for their story,” said OCCRP Publisher Drew Sullivan. “These political parties are showing their true colors as violent criminal thugs."

The U.S. Embassy in Dhaka condemned the attack and said it hoped Khan will recover soon.

“We hope the case is thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice,” a statement from Acting U.S. Embassy Spokesperson Bryan Schiller said.

Saer Khan said he will not be discouraged by the ongoing harassment.

“It’s my duty to hold the powerful accountable – unearth corruption and report on rights violations,” he told OCCRP on Friday. “And I will continue to do so. It is cowardly to attack my innocent brother for my journalistic activities.”