Marking 2016 a repressive year for press freedom in Bangladesh, a London-based watchdog said at least 320 violations, including murders, abductions and threats against journalists, took place within that period.
The violations, including three murders, against 141 journalists, three online activists and three officials of a publishing house, were carried out throughout the year, ARTICLE 19, an NGO defending freedom of expression, said in its annual report yesterday.
“Local journalists faced the brunt of these violations compared to journalists in the capital, Dhaka,” it added in the report ‘Bangladesh: Violations against journalists and online activists in 2016’ published on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.
“Brutal attacks on journalists and online activists, and the use of unfair laws and criminal defamation provisions which clearly violate international standards, continued to stifle free speech,” it added.
ARTICLE 19 also came up with a five-point recommendation in the report “in order to address these serious and continuing violations of free expression, and protect journalists and online activists” which includes:
1. Investigate promptly and effectively all violations against journalists and bring an end to impunity.
2. Create a safe and enabling environment for journalists and activists to carry out their work, and take measures to ensure their security and protection in line with Bangladesh’s obligations under UN Human Rights Council Resolution 33/2 on the Safety of Journalists, and the government’s commitments during its most recent UPR.
3. Repeal Section 57 of the ICT Act to bring the Act into line with international standards on freedom of expression, and drop all cases against journalists and online activists under this provision.
4. Repeal all laws criminalising defamation and replace them with appropriate civil defamation provisions.
5. Provide appropriate training on violations against freedom of expression, including gender-specific crimes, to relevant law enforcement officials including the police and prosecutors.