In Bangladesh, where just last month well-known blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was murdered in the street, and where attacks on journalists" have been on the rise, the latest news is that three bloggers have been detained for allegedly demeaning Islam and the Prophet Mohammed on their blogs. The three bloggers—Rasel Parvez, Mushiur Rahman Biplob, and Subrata Adhikhari Shuvo—were, according to Global Voices Advocacy, summoned yesterday to the police station, their laptops, mobile phones and other devices confiscated.
Their arrest comes just days after another leading blogger, Asif Mohiuddin, was summoned and questioned by police following the blocking of his blog. Weeks prior, and with the approval of the Prime Minister, the government formed a nine-member committee to track bloggers and other netizens who made comments deemed derogatory toward Islam, and on March 31, a list of 84 bloggers was submitted to the committee.
The recent turmoil stems from a series of protests that originated in the Shahbag neighborhood of the capital Dhaka, during which protesters demanded maximum punishment for Abdul Quader Mollah and others convicted of crimes against humanity during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. The demands later widened to include banning the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party from politics and a boycott of institutions affiliated with the party. Five men affiliated with the party later confessed to involvement in the killing of Ahmed Rajib Haider, further fanning the flames of protest.
Article 39 of Bangladesh’s constitution guarantees “freedom of thought and conscience, and of speech,” allowing only for “reasonable restrictions imposed by law.” Bangladesh also ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 2000, further enshrining its commitment to free expression, however, Section 295A of the Penal Code (1860) allows for the punishment of any speech with a “deliberate” or “malicious” intention of “hurting religious sentiments.”
EFF is deeply concerned about the these growing threats to free expression in Bangladesh. We call on the Bangladeshi government to release the detained bloggers immediately. We will be keeping a close on eye on the situation and will offer updates as it develops.