Bangladesh: Lack of protection for journalists and online activists

In its report Freedom of Expression in Bangladesh ARTICLE 19 has recorded a total of 271 attacks in 2013: 258 against journalists and 13 against online activists. 

The report highlights that:

  • Four journalists and one online activist were killed
  • 62% of the attacks involved injury including 78 serious injuries and 89 minor assaults
  • 13 arrests were made, six of whom were online activists – the majority of them taken into police remand 
  • 12 journalists have been harassed and eight journalists have been implicated in criminal defamation cases
  • 22 journalists have been affected by the destruction and damage of their equipment or property.

The report expresses alarm at increased hostility towards women through 2013, with 27 incidents of gender-based attacks, including attacks on their physical integrity.

The Report finds that almost all attacks were directed against journalists when they were covering agitations, clashes between political parties, rivalry and in-fights between political cadres, violence by religious fundamentalists, and clashes between the police and political parties.

Religious fundamentalist groups have emerged as an increasing threat to the safety of journalists and online activists and as a force against pluralism, gender equality, non-violence and diversity.

The report finds worrying patterns of insufficient legal responses taken against attacks. Actions have been taken in only one out of every four incidents.

“We have found that impunity for acts of violence remains a significant problem for the safety and protection of journalists and online activists in Bangladesh along with inadequate protection offered by the state and media houses,” said Tahmina Rahman, Director of ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh and South Asia.

The report emphasises that amendments brought to the ICT Act 2006 through the ICT (Amendment) Act 2013 give law enforcers broad powers of arrest and are restrictive to online expression.

It recommends that the government should adopt a holistic protection approach that looks at the legal, psychological and physical protection measures and the creation of an enabling environment for the exercise of freedom of expression.

The report concludes that Bangladesh must make serious efforts to fulfill its Universal Periodic Reviews commitment for the safety and protection of journalists and online activists.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the government to end the climate of impunity so that each and every attack on journalists and online activists is fully, effectively and speedily investigated and those responsible brought to justice.

The report is available to download here.