Such detention and harassment of family of expatriate journalists and activists is unacceptable, unethical and illegal. If anyone at home or abroad does anything that might be illegal, the law enforcement agency would certainly take legal action against them and hold them to justice, but they should by no means harass the family. The government is reported to have made a list of the people who carry out ‘anti-state activities’ abroad and ordered Bangladesh missions to hold them to justice. The government should not construe the criticism of the government and its policies and action as anti-state activities. Criticism and dissent are what strengthen democracy, which allows space for dissent and criticism. But, what the government does is a worrying sign of political intolerance. There should be no way for the government to criminalise criticism and dissent and harass critics and dissenters who live in the country and harass, by way of detention, the family of critics and dissenters who live abroad. Rights organisations have criticised such a phenomenon. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on September 12 said that ‘rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and victims’ families should not face reprisals or sanctions for their advocacy work.’
The government must, therefore, ensure that no family of expatriate journalists and critics face harassment for anything their relatives might have done. The government must also realise that criminalising criticism and dissent weakens democracy. It must not view criticism of the government and government officials or policies as anti-state activities. The government must, rather, give explanation whenever it is criticised and make a course correction if the criticism has merits.