The Global Voices community calls for international attention to the alarming situation of bloggers in Bangladesh. Bloggers have been killed, and many more have been attacked, subjected to death threats and ostracized by religious hardliners for their writing. This year alone, three bloggers have been assassinated in public.
The names of these bloggers and others under threat appeared on a list of 84 people submitted to a special government committee by a group of conservative Muslim clerics who accused the bloggers of “atheism” and writing against Islam. Government officials responded by blocking critical websites and making arrests, of bloggers and leaders from the religious right, at the height of #shahbag protests in 2013. Some media outlets, including prominent right-wing blogs, have even propagated the idea that all bloggers are atheists who “hurt the feelings” of religious Bangladeshis.
Atheists have the same rights as other citizens in Bangladesh. Under national law, any person who has a “deliberate” or “malicious” intention of “hurting religious sentiments” can be prosecuted. But vigilante violence and murder for alleged insults is a horrendous response and egregious violation of the laws of Bangladesh. Despite this, Bangladesh’s secular government has done little to discourage the attacks or bring the killers to justice.
These bloggers were neither advocating nor perpetrating such violence. They were writing about the complex, often tendentious political climate in Bangladesh and the importance of upholding human rights. They were exercising their right to free expression, enshrined by their nation’s constitution and international human rights doctrine to which Bangladesh is party.
Global Voices is a community bloggers, activists, writers, and translators from 137 countries. The universal human right to free expression is fundamental to our mission. We tell underreported stories from around the world and defend the rights of everyone to speak freely and without fear.
Among those the 84 individuals on this list are friends and collaborators of the Global Voices community. There are also bloggers and online activists who are not in the list, but are in peril because of their writing and activism.
We are deeply concerned for the safety of Bangladeshi bloggers both in and outside the country. We condemn the murders of bloggers Ananta Bijoy Das, Ahmed Rajib Haider, Washiqur Rahman and Avijit Roy and call on authorities to ensure that those responsible for these killings are brought to justice. And we ask our allies in the international human rights community to join us in our call, and in helping to ensure safety for those in peril.