Bangladesh urged to stop promoting self-censorship

New York, Aug 12 (IANS) Bangladesh authorities should unequivocally declare their commitment to free speech instead of proposing self-censorship, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

The killing of secular blogger Niladri Chakrabarti on August 7 is a harrowing reminder of the need for Bangladesh to take immediate steps to protect the security of all and end attempts at muzzling independent voices, the rights body said.

Chakrabarti, who used the pen name Niloy Neel, is the fourth blogger to be murdered in Bangladesh this year for advocating secularism.

All four were listed by extremist groups as among 84 bloggers they described as anti-Islamic and blasphemous.

Instead of addressing police failure to respond to threats against Chakrabarti or to arrest those responsible for the earlier murders, Inspector General of Police A.K.M. Shahidul Hoque warned “that hurting religious sentiments is a crime according to our law”.

While assuring a speedy investigation, Hoque said: “Those who are free thinkers and writers, I will request them, please make sure that we don’t cross the line. Anything that may hurt anyone’s religious sentiments or beliefs should not be written.”

Human Rights Watch said: “It’s shocking that Bangladesh authorities not only failed to protect the bloggers despite complaints to the police about threats against them, but instead are proposing self-censorship.

“The government should recall that its duty is to uphold the constitution and protect people’s lives, as well as their religious freedom.”

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