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BD ‘fails’ to protect dissenting voices: AI

02 May 2017,Tuesday, 20:10



Amnesty International (AI), a London-based right group, has said Bangladesh government has failed to protect dissenting voices or hold accountable the armed groups that threaten them, and stifled freedom of expression through a slew of ‘repressive tactics and new laws’.

A new AI report - Caught between fear and repression: Attacks on freedom of expression in Bangladesh ­– documents how armed groups have thrived on a climate of impunity, carrying out a high-profile spate of killings of secular bloggers with few consequences. In four years, only a single case has resulted in convictions.

Activists also regularly receive death threats, forcing some of them to leave the country for their own safety, while the authorities have refused to offer them protection.

Over the last year, the Bangladeshi government has also intensified its crackdown on public debate and criticism, harassing media workers, interfering with their work, and bringing criminal charges against them under draconian laws, the report says.

“Between the violence of armed groups and state repression of the state, secular voices in Bangladesh are being consistently silenced. Not only is the government failing to protect people’s freedom of expression, it has been blaming them for the threats they face and criminalising the work of bloggers and journalists through a slew of repressive laws,” said AI’s Bangladesh researcher Olof Blomqvist.

In several other cases, activists told AI that the police refused to register their complaints about threats they received. In other instances, the police suggested the victims should leave the country, or even began harassing them for writing on ‘secular topics’.

One secular blogger, who received more than a dozen death threats by phone and on social media, told AI: “I made several attempts to get some help, but [to] my face they refused to help me.”

Meanwhile, their attackers have been able to enjoy almost complete impunity. Since the Awami League government was reelected in 2014, only one case resulted in convictions -- eight alleged members of Ansar al-Islam were found guilty in December 2015 for their role in an attack.

This has brought a climate of fear in Bangladesh’s once-vibrant civil society, which who now resort to self-censorship.

 

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