Dhaka – Global rights watchdog Amnesty International observed the right to freedom of expression has been restricted further in Bangladesh as the government “applied repressive laws and pressed criminal laws against critics”.
The watchdog in a report released globally on Wednesday also said that armed groups claiming to act in the name of Islam killed foreign nationals, secular activists and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in targeted attacks.
The government’s response was marked by human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, unlawful killings, torture and other ill-treatment, it added.
The report said that independent media outlets and journalists came under severe pressure by the government.
“Several journalists faced arbitrary criminal charges, often for publishing criticism of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, her family or the Awami League Government,” it said adding that the journalists reported increased threats from government officials or security agencies.
The agency has referred to a number of cases filed against The Daily Star Editor Mahfuz Anam for publishing unsubstantiated allegations against politicians during an army-backed government in 2007-08 and arrest of pro-BNP senior journalist Shafik Rehman over a plot to Sajeeb Wazed Joy, the son of Prime Minister Hasina.
But it mentioned the charges related to his (Anam’s)admission that he had, under pressure from military intelligence, published unsubstantiated corruption allegations against Sheikh Hasina when she was out of government during the military rule of the 1990s.
The fact is Bangladesh was not under military rule during the 1990s.
The government continued to use a range of repressive laws to restrict the right to freedom of expression extensively.
It increasingly used the Information and Communications Technology Act which arbitrarily restricted online expression. The watchdog also said parliament in October adopted the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act which significantly increased government control over the work of NGOs and threatened them with deregistration for making “inimical” or “derogatory” remarks against the Constitution or constitutional bodies.
Several other bills that threatened freedom of expression were proposed in parliament, including the Digital Security Act and the Liberation War Denial Crimes Act, the report said.