Bangladesh urged to take “urgent steps to protect freedom of expression”


Nineteen groups advocating media freedom around the world have called for urgent and concrete steps to reverse what they observed as the deteriorating climate for free expression in Bangladesh.

The organisations including the Committee to Protect Journalists made the call in a submission to UN Human Rights Council, Geneva, which is set for holding a session.

“A string of murders of bloggers and publishers since February 2015, for which no one has been convicted, has produced an atmosphere of fear,” reads the joint statement.

The organisations that issued the statement are PEN International, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, Center for Inquiry, Committee to Protect Journalists,

Dansk PEN, English PEN, European Human ist Federation, Finnish PEN, Freemuse, Icelandic PEN, Index on Censorship, International Humanist and Ethical Union, International Publishers Association, Norsk PEN, PEN America, PEN Bangladesh, PEN Melbourne, Reporters without Borders and PEN Sweden.
Referring to the government’s reaction the incidents of violence, they said while condemning these attacks, the authorities have repeatedly made statements and taken actions implying that the responsibility for avoiding such attacks lies with the victims.

“Recent years have seen a serious decline in respect for freedom of expression and the associated rights of freedom of association, assembly and of religion or belief in Bangladesh,” the groups mentioned.

For silencing of dissenting voices, through murder, imprisonment, self-censorship or exile, they put blame on a number of factors – legislative changes, poor law enforcement, lack of governmental support for the principle of freedom of expression, attempts to undermine independent media and a justice system ill-equipped to provide recourse to victims of rights violations.

“Deeply entrenched and widening political differences between the ruling Awami League, the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and their allies are contributing to a government crackdown on freedom of expression, with Bangladesh’s vibrant civil society also under attack,” they pointed out.

Source: Prothom Alo