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Bangladesh's free press is under fire – diplomat

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In recent weeks, Bangladesh has seen a series of intimidating attacks on journalists and their relatives, putting renewed pressure on its increasingly strained media.

In March, a mob beat Mahinur Khan, the brother of Zulkarnain Ser Khan, a Bangladeshi investigative journalist living in exile, with batons. ,Your brother writes about PM? against the government? she is a journalist? We’ll show you now,” People reportedly Said As he thrashes Mahinoor.

Zulqarnain contributed to an Al Jazeera investigative documentary ,all prime minister’s men,” which alleged that Bangladesh’s powerful political and military elite were flouting the rule of law to engage in corruption. no one left Arrested Yet for the attack on Zulqarnain’s brother.

Attack on Mahinoor reaffirms troubling looms Pattern of violence aimed at silencing and suppressing exiled journalists.

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This is a challenging time for press freedom in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has been ranked in the latest World Press Freedom Index 162ndWorse than Cambodia, Russia and Venezuela – countries known for their authoritarian regimes.

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Bangladesh’s flawed democracy is now slipping back into authoritarianism. Global democracy indicators have labeled the country as a hybrid regimeOne electoral autocracy, And a monopoly,

This trend of Bangladesh’s authoritarian turn under a civilian government is a sharp break from the country’s past political history, where military rulers ruled through authoritarian governments.

Days after Zulqarnain Ser Khan’s brother was beaten up, Matiur Rahman, the editor of Prothom Alo, the largest and most influential Bengali news daily in Bangladesh, was prosecuted under the Digital Security Act (DSA) for publishing what the government says That’s “fake news”. Prothom Elo reporter Shamsuzzaman Shams was picked up from his house at 4 am in plain clothes and later booked under DSA.

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problem with dsa He It is abstract in nature and a wide range of offenses are considered non-bailable under this law. It allows the police to arrest and jail anyone without a warrant. A Study It was noted by the Center for Governance Studies that Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League and state officials have weaponized the DSA to harass journalists and opposition politicians.

Both Mantiur and Shams were prosecuted because Prothom Elo published reports Shams highlights the daily struggle of Bangladeshis amidst the ongoing economic crisis in the country. The report cited a daily wage laborer and a boy selling flowers. The latter was quoted as saying that he expected to sell more flowers that day as it was Bangladesh’s Independence Day, while daily wage laborers Said, “When you go to the market, you lose your sweat. We need freedom to fish, meat and rice (enough food).”

Prothom Alo mistakenly attributed the laborer’s quote to the young flower seller, which he accepted and corrected.

What angered AL Sarkar was that the article drew attention to the struggles of Bangladeshis due to the weak economy. it was saw As an insult to the “development narrative” of the government.

Prothom Alo came under heavy attack from the government. He was accused of paying a flower seller to talk badly about the economy. AL supporters in Bangladeshi civil society organize human chain demanding cancellation of newspapers License, In Parliament, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina attacked the newspaper , Awami League, the enemy of democracy and [the Bangladeshi] people.” After that speech, a crowd sabotage threatened to boycott the office of Prothom Alo.

Prothom Alo’s editor and reporter, in a statement following the harassment of Amnesty International Said: “The use of the draconian Digital Security Act on journalists and attacks on some of the country’s largest news publications together indicate a worrying trend towards repression and a downward spiral of the right to freedom of expression in Bangladesh.”

UN chief human rights official calls for immediate suspension of DSA Said, “I am concerned that the Digital Security Act is being used across Bangladesh to arrest, harass and threaten journalists and human rights defenders, and to suppress critical voices online.” a US State Department spokesman It has been told DSA is one of the harshest laws in the world for journalists.

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After a national and international outcry, Rahman was the editor of Prothom Alo granted anticipatory bail, and reporter Shams is released from prison. Although they are not completely out of reach, they are safe for the time being.

Against the backdrop of the temporary release of Prothom Alo’s editor and reporter, a pertinent question is why the Bangladeshi government backtracked. A strong autocratic government would not release journalists so soon.

One possible explanation for the Hasina government’s walk-back is that it is aware that it is making international headlines. General elections are due in Bangladesh in less than a year. The 2014 and 2018 national elections were not considered fair by Western liberal democracies, including the United States. America has already planted Sanctions on six officers of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Bangladesh’s elite special force, for serious human rights violations.

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Recently in a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken along with Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen reiterated Bangladesh needs to ensure that elections are free and fair and that freedom of expression is protected.

With the economy weakening, the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) re-energising and becoming more organized ahead of the general elections, and under close scrutiny from the US, the Hasina government may now be looking to intensify its crackdown on the media. Rethinking your strategy. ,

The media silencing ploy could also be a ploy to avoid drawing much attention to the state of freedom of expression in Bangladesh during Hasina’s upcoming 15-day visit to Japan, the US and the UK during her bilateral talks with governments.