IFJ Calls for Release of Four Arrested Bloggers in Bangladesh

Media Release: Bangladesh                                                                         April 5, 2013

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins partners and associates in Bangladesh in calling for the release of four men arrested on charges of posting blog content offensive to religious principles.

According to information received from the IFJ’s partners under the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN), Subrata Adhikari Shuvo, Russel Parvez and Mashiur Rahman Biplob, were arrested late on April 1 and remanded to seven days for interrogation the following day. On April 3, Asif Mohiuddin was arrested and remanded to three days in police custody the following day. Political tensions have been running high in Bangladesh for two months, since spontaneous youth protests erupted in the capital city of Dhaka after a tribunal constituted to try alleged war criminals from the country’s 1971 war of liberation, turned in a guilty verdict against an accused member of the Islamic party, the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI), but was then seen to have delivered too lenient a sentence. The protesters occupied a prominent square in Dhaka city where they continue to demonstrate, even as the movement has spread to other parts of the country and escalated its demands to a possible ban on the JEI. The Islamist party has retaliated by accusing the demonstrators of insulting the majority faith of Bangladesh in their slogans and their frequent blog-posts. Some of the blogspot content alleged to have been posted by the demonstrators is believed to have been doctored by the political party, to strengthen its case. Counter demonstrations by the JEI have been fired upon by the police, resulting in a number of deaths. The arrest of the four bloggers is seen as an effort by the ruling Awami League party to neutralise the counter-mobilisation by the Islamist party. Bangladesh’s Home Minister has since said that the government has a list of another seven “atheist bloggers” who could soon be arrested. Journalists in Bangladesh are disturbed by these developments and by the government’s stated intent to monitor blog content and initiate criminal action against alleged offenders. The IFJ joins journalists and other free speech advocates in Bangladesh in calling on the authorities to release the four youths in custody and work towards an understanding with journalists and civil society groups on the broad parameters of the right to free speech, which is guaranteed by the constitution of Bangladesh. Forfurther information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
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