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
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
Bangladesh’s Home Minister has since said that the
government has a list of another seven “atheist bloggers” who could soon be
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.
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