CPJ's Call to Action Against Bangladesh's Violations of Press Freedom and Expression
East and South Asia Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
In an alarming trend, authorities in Bangladesh have been ramping up efforts to stifle freedom of expression and silence the media through a disturbing combination of arbitrary detention, legal harassment, and censorship (CPJ, 23 August 2023; CPJ, 21 September 2021; CPJ, 30 March 2023; CPJ, 3 January 2020; CPJ, 3 May 2020). This disturbing information has been brought to light by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) (CPJ, 23 August 2023). The 44th session of the Universal Periodic Review Working Group, scheduled for November, will address these grave violations (CPJ, 23 August 2023).
Bangladeshi authorities have charged journalists Kabir Kishore, Tasneem Khalil, and Shafiqul Islam Kajol under the Digital Security Act, alleging political commentary against the government. The CPJ called for the charges to be dropped, the harassment to cease, and the repeal of the draconian Digital Security Act (CPJ, 21 September 2021). On another occasion, Bangladesh's authorities blocked domestic access to Netra News, a news website based in Sweden, following its launch in December 2019. The website, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, faced government censorship after publishing critical articles (CPJ, 3 January 2020). Journalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol, editor of Pakkhakal magazine, was reported missing in March 2020 after facing a defamation suit. He was later arrested by Bangladesh's Border Guard under trespassing charges after being found crossing the border from India. CPJ called for his immediate release and an end to his detention (CPJ, 3 May 2020). Bangladeshi authorities arrested journalist Shamsuzzaman Shams under the Digital Security Act for allegedly spreading "false news," followed by an investigation into Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman and others for the same reason. The CPJ calls for their immediate release and an end to the harassment (CPJ, 30 March 2023).
Numerous critical human rights have been violated in Bangladesh, as demonstrated by recent incidents. Journalists Kabir Kishore, Tasneem Khalil, and Shafiqul Islam Kajol facing charges under the oppressive Digital Security Act for expressing political opinions exemplifies the infringement on freedom of expression and dissent (CPJ, 21 September 2021). Moreover, the censorship of Netra News after its launch and the subsequent blocking of its domestic access starkly violate the rights to information and press freedom (CPJ, 3 January 2020). The arrest and detention of journalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol on questionable trespassing charges further erode the right to liberty and due process (CPJ, 3 May 2020). These actions stand contrary to Bangladesh's international commitments, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which safeguard these fundamental human rights. The Committee to Protect Journalists' persistent calls for adherence to these standards underscore the need for swift corrective action (CPJ, 30 March 2023), while the upcoming Universal Periodic Review Working Group session offers a crucial opportunity for Bangladesh to address these grave transgressions (CPJ, 23 August 2023).
CPJ has repeatedly urged the Bangladeshi authorities to adhere to human rights standards (CPJ, 30 March 2023). The 44th session of the Universal Periodic Review Working Group, scheduled for November, CPJ address these grave violations (CPJ, 23 August 2023).
CPJ. (23 August 2023). CPJ calls for protection of journalists in Bangladesh ahead of UN human rights review. Available at < https://cpj.org/2023/08/cpj-calls-for-protection-of-journalists-in-bangladesh-ahead-of-un-human-rights-review/>.
CPJ. (21 September 2021). Bangladesh authorities charge 3 journalists under Digital Security Act. Available at < https://cpj.org/2021/09/bangladesh-authorities-charge-3-journalists-under-digital-security-act/>.
CPJ. (30 March 2023). CPJ calls on Bangladesh authorities to cease harassing staff of Prothom Alo newspaper. Available at < https://cpj.org/2023/03/cpj-calls-on-bangladesh-authorities-to-cease-harassing-staff-of-prothom-alo-newspaper/>.
CPJ. (3 January 2020). Bangladesh blocks Sweden-based news website Netra News. Available at < https://cpj.org/2020/01/bangladesh-blocks-sweden-based-news-website-netra/>.
CPJ. (3 May 2020). Missing Bangladeshi journalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol arrested after being found near Indian border. Available at < https://cpj.org/2020/05/missing-bangladeshi-journalist-shafiqul-islam-kajo/>.