Bangladesh government squishing freedom of speech by arresting and harassing young bloggers inside the country
To whom it may concern
We are drawing your attention to an ominous development that is taking place right now in Bangladesh. To appease a handful of radical islamist preachers, the government has embarked on a campaign to curtail freedom of speech. To this effect, the police under government dictate have arrested three bloggers (Subrata Adhikari Shuvo, Mashiur Rahman Biplob and Rasel Parvez) in Dhaka, and then several others including one popular atheist blogger, Asif Mohiuddin in the following day. They were interrogated by police and further remanded in custody for seven more days. Torture in police custody is commonplace in Bangladesh for the detainees, often to extract incriminating statements. This time, several hapless bloggers are at the receiving end of government’s wrath. The government claims that these young bloggers have offended Islam and Muhammad, Islam’s holy prophet. It is worth noting that Bangladesh has no blasphemy law and the nation’s constitution allows the “freedom of thought, conscience and expression” as a fundamental right. In the aftermath of a popular protest in February and March 2013 known as Shahbag Movement, which was organized by bloggers and cyber writers, a section of Islamists have waged a disinformation campaign to label the bloggers ‘atheists’. The government is now trying to appease these Islamists. The government has made a list of nearly 100 bloggers and cyber forum participants who they labeled atheists and defamers of Islam. Through interview given to popular press, a spokesperson for the government has announced that the government will arrest and prosecute these “errant” bloggers. Although there is no law against atheism in Bangladesh, the government is persecuting these bloggers on charges of offending Islam and its Prophet. The government has already blocked a few popular websites to curtail free flow of information and promises to do even more to appease the Islamists. Since the constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh ensures freedom of speech and expression [article 39 (1, 2) of chapter-3], we believe Bangladesh Government’s heinous action against the popular bloggers is unconstitutional and a gross violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, which clearly states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression”).
We urge you to look into this serious matter and join with us in expressing grave concern so that bloggers and writers are not harassed and persecuted by state machinery because of the views they hold on religion and other such matters. The government has taken this easy route to appease a handful of rouge Mullahs whose support they need to win the upcoming election. We hope you understand the gravity of the situation which is worsening by the day.