Bangladesh: Authorities tacitly legitimize attacks against bloggers

Press release
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The Bangladesh authorities must stop fostering religious discrimination and attacks against free expression and ensure accountability for recent violence against bloggers, stated FIDH following troubling statements made by police representatives after the murder of Niladri Chattopadhyay [1] on 7 August 2015, the fourth brutal murder of a blogger in Bangladesh since February 2015. [2]

Violence and attacks against those who exercise peaceful free speech will continue in Bangladesh until the authorities stop legitimizing religious violence and bring perpetrators to justice ,” stated Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

While the authorities claim to have arrested suspects for two of these killings and have vowed to fully investigate all four murders, the police have yet to press any formal charges in any of these cases. Rather, the authorities appear to be tacitly legitimising attacks on those who criticise religion: during a press briefing on Sunday 9 August 2015, Inspector General of Police AKM Shahidul Hoque called on bloggers not to “cross the limit,” recalling that “hurting religious belief” is a criminal offence in Bangladesh. [3] In addition,Islamic groups allegedly linked to the ruling party in Bangladesh staged a protest this morning in Dhaka, calling for bloggers who publish anti-Islamic content to be put to death.

Rather than calling on bloggers to limit their free and peaceful expression, the authorities should be investigating and ensuring justice for the violent crimes perpetrated against them. Regrettably, the authorities have been more active in curbing free speech than the violent attacks against those who exercise it. At least six atheist bloggers have been arrested by the authorities on charges of hurting religious sentiment since 2013, while none of the perpetrators of the blogger attacks have been brought to justice.

FIDH calls on the Bangladeshi authorities to fully investigate the murders of these four bloggers and to bring those responsible to justice. Moreover, we call on the Bangladeshi government to uphold its obligations under international law to protect the rights of its people to freedom of expression and belief, by repealing the Blasphemy laws, protecting those who peacefully express their opinion from any attacks, and publicly condemning and investigating any perpetrators of religious violence.

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