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In Bangladesh “the term ‘blogger’ has become a curse”

Around the world online freedoms are being threatened both by states and violent criminal organizations that are seeking to repress free speech. One glaring example is that of the endangered bloggers in Bangladesh who have been threatened, harassed, and killed. In 2015 alone, Islamic extremists have killed four bloggers and a publisher for their secular views. To date, the government has not found a way to counter these violent attacks against independent journalists.

Bangladesh blogger

The murders have been gruesome. The most recent occurred on October 31, 2015, when Faisal Arefin Dipan, a publisher and a blogger, was hacked to death in his office in Dhaka. Ahmedur Rashid Tutul was attacked and wounded in that attack too. Just a couple months earlier in August, blogger Niloy Neel was murdered in his Dhaka apartment. In May, Ananta Bijoy Das, a blogger critical of religion was hacked to death. In March secular blogger Washiqur Rahman was also killed at knifepoint. These incidents followed the brutal murder of Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-American blogger and writer who was attacked and killed near the campus of Dhaka University Campus in February 2015, which drew international rebuke.

The tumult in Bangladesh has been brewing for a long time. In March 2013, a group of clerics announced a list of 84 “enemies of Islam” that was circulated by the Bangladeshi media. In August 2015, an unknown group identifying itself as Ittahadul Mujahidin, released a hit list with names of 20 bloggers, artists, teachers, and government ministers accused of insulting Islam. Thus, the situation in Bangladesh appears to be getting worse, not better.

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‘The government should investigate the source and nature of threats to Asma Jahangir’s life, and take appropriate action’

‘The government should investigate the source and nature of threats to Asma Jahangir’s life, and take appropriate action’

Here is an interview with Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan Director of Human Rights Watch, which was recently published.

Raza Rumi: A year after the murder of Saleem Shahzad and in light of the strong reaction by journalists to his killing, are media professionals safer in Pakistan today? 

Ali Dayan Hasan: The revulsion and outrage with which not journalists but society more broadly reacted to Shahzad’s gruesome murder was both commendable and brave. But the sad fact is that his killers remain at large and the right to freedom of expression and information is under persistent pressure by both militant groups and state security agencies. And the government has been able to do little to change that situation.

Pakistan is widely considered to be one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. At least 10 journalists were killed in Pakistan during 2011 and six have been killed so far this year. Four journalists were killed in the month of May alone. These are not just statistics but real people. Tariq Kamal and Aurangzeb Tunio were killed on May 9 and May 10 respectively. On May 18,the bullet-riddled body of Express News correspondent Razzaq Gul was found dumped in a deserted area near Turbat. Security agencies are suspected of involvement in his killing. On May 28, Abdul Qadir Hajizai was killed in Balochistan when armed men on a motorbike shot him dead. Reportedly, the Baloch Liberation Front claimed responsibility for his killing. In none of these cases has anyone been held accountable.

RR: So you are describing a situation, particularly in Balochistan, where both state and militant groups are killing journalists…

ADH: Not just in Balochistan but also in FATA and KP. A climate of fear impedes media coverage of the military and militant groups. Journalists rarely report on human rights abuses by the military in counterterrorism operations and the Taliban and other armed groups regularly threaten media outlets. Meanwhile, legitimate media scrutiny of the judiciary also stands greatly curtailed due to fear of contempt of court proceedings.

RR: Increasingly there are fears that human rights defenders are being targeted. Does HRW also see threats to human rights defenders as an emerging danger? […]

June 19th, 2012|human rights, Pakistan, Published in The Friday Times|2 Comments