Defending freedom of expression
This is an evident truth in the present context of Bangladesh that the people of this motherland are deprived from basic fundamental human rights including freedom of expression. While the people of this country are taking the curse of politics and scarifying their freedom and human rights, ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh organised a consultation programme on Freedom of expression and National Institutions on December 30 2013 at Shahida Quadir Auditorium Shyamoli, Dhaka.
ARTICLE 19 in South Asia is increasingly engaging with human rights activists and national and international actors to ensure that human rights practices of countries in South Asia are open to public examination and scrutiny and to hold governments accountable for the protection of freedom of expression and information.
Initial calls for effective human rights mechanism in South Asia needs to be further explored with regard to the extent to which such an instrument or body can address challenges to freedom of expression and information in the region, complement the role of National Human Rights Institutions', address cross border issues and enhance civil society engagement on these issues at the sub-regional level.
In this backdrop ARTICLE 19 is trying to identify the issues which hamper the realization of freedom of expression not only in Bangladesh but also in south Asia.
The aforesaid consultation programme focused on freedom of expression issues in Bangladesh and the role of National Human Rights Institutions in the Sub-region particularly the role of National Human Rights Commission Bangladesh. The objective of this consultation is to conduct study on the monitoring mechanisms conducted by National Human Rights Institutions and to portray the actual scenario in this regard.
Mr Sayeed Ahmed, Country Programme Manager, Forum-Asia stressed on the necessity of vibrant role which needs to be played by NHRC Bangladesh to stimulate human rights movement on the issue of freedom of expression.
He underscored the underlying significance of creating balance between the restrictions attached with freedom of expression and the actual realization of this right.
Mr Jahid Hossain, Expert Monitoring and Investigation at National Human Rights Commission Capacity Development Project said that it is very much unfortunate to describe that despite being a party to the International Covenants, the Government of Bangladesh amended the ICT law which contains provisions curtailing the freedom of expression.
Dr. Mahbubur Rahman, Associate professor of Law University of Dhaka, highlighted the importance of contribution by Non-State Actors to address and mobilize the freedom of expression movement effectively.
Participants from various stakeholders submitted their recommendations to strengthen the movement which includes removal of anti-freedom and anti-human rights elements in the law making process, to take and implement project at grassroots level, to coordinate and engage with the South Asian movement regarding freedom of expression etc.
Tahmina Rahman, Director, ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh and South Asia, said that it is very clear that till now freedom of expression is not being prioritised with the agenda of the National Human Rights Institutions in South Asia.
About the recent political rampage disregarding fundamental rights, Mr Sayeed Ahmed remarked that in this situation we can at least expect from the NHRC Bangladesh to conduct an analysis whether the activities of the wrongdoers are within or beyond limitation imposed by state action which restricts fundamental rights including freedom of assembly and association.
From Law Desk.