The Dissident Blog is a publication of the Swedish PEN that wants to bring to light texts “that can neither be written nor published in the writers’ own countries.” The goal is provide these writings a Swedish as well as an international audience. This is an excellent well-developed online magazine that should be on the reading list of all free-thinkers.
The December issue of the Blog is dedicated to the struggle of free-thinkers in Bangladesh. It carries articles by a number of Bangladeshi and international writers on the state of free expression in Bangladesh. The articles portray different aspects of the attacks on the free-thinking writers and publishers and the state of indifference to such attacks on the part of the Bangladesh Government.
The issue carries an article titled “Daring to Know : The Story of Muktomona,” which is a short history of the Mukto-mona Blog and its beleaguered bloggers, a number of them killed in 2015, by Siddhartha Dhar.
The director of the Center for Inquiry’s Office of Public Policy Michael De Dora writes in “The Crisis in Bangladesh and What can be done” that the Bangladesh Government can do a lot more to protect the writers and publishers of free-speech from extremist attacks.
In his article Terror Attacks against Bangladeshi Bloggers Murder the Future,” Ola Larsmo, the editor of The Dissident’s Blog, writes: There is a risk that what is happening in Bangladesh is overshadowed by other major crises in the world such as the refugee crisis, the war in Syria, and ISIS threat to all. So we need to be updated on current events: Bangladesh, a country in the geo-political centre of South East Asia is moving from a democratic development to quite the opposite. If the religious extremists and the violent groups that support them manage to halt the development towards a greater openness, this may inflame a catastrophic development in the whole region.
The issue carries a poignant letter by Avijit Roy’s childhood friend Shabnam Nadiya titled, “Letter to My Dear Friend.”
Many contributors to the issue have signed a joint statement that partly states: At this context, we demand to the Sheikh Hasina administration to ensure proper investigation and to take action against those who are behind these attacks, as well as those who have carried out the attacks. We appeal to the authority to remove all legal and administrative barriers to access means of free expression. We call upon the government to stop banning Internet-based services vital for communication and free expression, such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Viber, and Skype, as it has tended to do, without offering any explanation.
The signatories were: Priynaka Bose, activist; Michael De Dora, director of Public Policy, Center for Inquiry; Ratan Kumar Samadder, writer; Ola Larsmo, chair Swedish PEN; Shamima Mitu, blogger; Marzia Prova, writer; Anisur Rahman, writer; Arifur Rahman, cartoonist; Salil Tripathi, Chair in Writers in Prison Committee, PEN International