Dhaka – The Amnesty International has accused Bangladeshi government of “stifling” free speech and “silencing” the critical voices in the media.
The human rights watchdog, in a report released on media freedom Tuesday also was critical about the authorities’ failure to ensure protection of the secularist bloggers and activists from the armed groups since 2014.
Amnesty’s report “Caught between fear and repression: Attacks on freedom of expression in Bangladesh” said the media in the South Asian country was “under siege” and freedom of the press were more restricted.
At least seven bloggers have been killed beginning with the murder of Rajib Haider by machete-wielding men in 2013. Few of these cases have been brought to trial, the report said.
Many bloggers interviewed by Amnesty said they received regular death threats. Their pleas for protection were ignored, they alleged.
“Bangladesh authorities have been lacking in response,” Olof Blomqvist, researcher for Amnesty International said adding that there was a profound distrust of the police.
“Bloggers live in fear. Dozens have fled the country.”
The report listed a number of cases of harassment of journalists, attacks on them, killing of the bloggers and restriction of freedom of the media through application of colonial era laws.
“Not only is the government failing to protect freedom of expression, it is blaming the people for the threats they face and criminalising the works of bloggers and journalists through a slew of repressive laws,” Blomqvist said.
Blomqvist said the Amnesty International wanted to highlight the “regional nature” of threats to freedom of expression, adding that it had documented similar issues and restrictions in India, Pakistan and Maldives as well.
“The Bangladesh government treats journalism as if it is a crime. Through imprisonment, threats, intimidation and constant interference in their work, the Bangladesh government has done all it can to silence the critical voices in the media,” said Blomqvist in New Delhi, according to a report by Press Trust of Inida.
Speaking on what should India’s role be in the matter, Aakar Patel, Executive Director of Amnesty International India, said, “India can offer refuge to those who leave Bangladesh due to these incidents. It should not only accept refugees of a particular faith. The policy should be based on threat perception of individuals.”
He said India should be in regular touch with the governments of all the neighbouring countries going through a turmoil, including Bangladesh, and put pressure on them to initiate action against the perpetrators of such attacks.