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Bangladesh: Arrest of the Bloggers and Editor – Government Must Refrain from Muzzling Freedom of Expression

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(Bangkok, 18 April 2013) – The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), a regional human rights group with 47 member organisations from 16 countries across Asia, expresses serious concern over the arrest of the acting editor of ‘Amar Desh’ and nineteen other employees of that newspaper. Attempts to prevent future publications of the newspaper without adhering to due process established by law is a serious attach on the freedom of the press.

This incident, following the recent arrest of four bloggers and blocking of blogspots and Facebook pages has further worsened the environment for exercising freedom of expression in Bangladesh. We call upon the Government of Bangladesh to refrain from any act that intends to muzzle freedom of expression in the country.

“It was unfortunate that the newspaper was campaigning for the arrest of the bloggers and instigated religious hatred by publishing unverified reports and writings. Yet, we must say that by arresting both the bloggers and Mr. Rahman, the Government has only worsened the environment for freedom of expression further, which is a core human right under international law and the Constitution of the country”, stated, stated Sultana Kamal, Executive Director of Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), FORUM-ASIA member, Bangladesh.

“It is evident from the chain of events that the objective of these actions is to cripple the freedom of the press and to ensure discontinuance of the daily. It is pertinent to note that this is not the first time that Mr. Rahman and his paper are facing such stern action by the present government. He was earlier arrested in 2010 and alleges that he was tortured by the law enforcers. This is a serious attack on the freedom of the expression and threatens the very fibre of a democratic society.” said Adilur Rahman Khan, Secretary of Odhikar, FORUM-ASIA member from Bangladesh.

“We must stress, in the given context especially that in situations where there are allegations that a journalist or media house has violated the law, the government must adhere to strict processes of the law and exhaust all other remedies before resorting to arrests.” said Ms. Giyoun Kim, Acting Executive Director, FORUM –ASIA.

It is unfortunate that these events have taken place just ahead of Bangladesh’s second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council on 29 April 2013. The state report, submitted by the government of Bangladesh to the Human Rights Council in February 2013 claims that “Pursuant to the constitutional guarantee for freedom of expression, conscience and press, the Government of Bangladesh has encouraged a vibrant media and free flow of information across the country (p 60)”. The ground reality of the situation of freedom of expression and the press however is far removed from this claim.

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