463 breaches of freedom of speech right | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 03, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:55 AM, May 03, 2019

463 breaches of freedom of speech right

Says Article 19 report on Bangladesh

Some 463 violations of freedom of speech occurred in the country last year, according to a human rights organisation.

Of them, some 51 percent involved journalists, Article 19 said in its annual report yesterday.

The UK-based organisation, which defends and promotes freedom of expression and freedom of information, published the report marking World Press Freedom Day 2019 today.

“Increased intimidation and threats to undermine freedom of expression has continued in Bangladesh… The situation for communicators in Bangladesh is dire,” the report said.

Stating that the trend of violence against journalists has changed, the report mentioned that there were 31 defamation cases, 71 cases under Digital Security Act 2018, and illegal arrest warrant and 20 more different types of legal harassment against journalists last year.

Two journalists were murdered, 19 suffered severe physical assault, 156 were victims of different physical attacks and 22 were kidnapped in 2018, according to the report.

“The journalists were attacked by local political leaders of the ruling party, members of the law enforcing agencies, and government officials as well,” it said.

“In the violation of digital rights, blocking and filtering were also observed in the online media abusing the ICT and digital security acts,” the report said.

Article 19 also recorded some 212 “threats” in 2018.

Besides, it recorded 10 cases of violations of the right to protest, including the quota reform movement, road safety movement, transport strike, movement for garment workers’ salary hike, etc.

There were 37 discussions of hate speech and propaganda through online and offline media, which were mostly religious contradiction and confliction centric, the report said.

Of these violations, there was non-state involvement in 81 percent of the cases while state involvement was recorded in 19 percent cases, according to the report.

“And the kind of violations we are seeing, often totally unprovoked; hampers and limits the work of human right activists, communication activists, writers, artists and media workers,” Faruq Faisel, the regional director of Article 19 in South Asia, said in the report.

He called upon the Bangladesh government to address the problem and ensure the end of “immunity for these violations”.

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