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Amnesty International Report Criticizes Bangladesh Internet Laws


Bangladeshi Blogger Mohiuddin Sharif, at a secret location in a south Asian country, March 1, 2017. Sharif faced death threats and ffled Bangladesh with his wife and a child in 2015. (R. Akhter Munni/VOA)


The human rights group Amnesty International has condemned laws governing the Internet in Bangladesh.

In a report released on Tuesday, the group called the laws that attempt to silence government critics in the country “draconian,” or very severe.

Amnesty said members of the media are under attack by both police and armed groups.

Olof Blomgvist is the report’s lead researcher.

“Between the violence of armed groups and repression of the state, [non-religious] voices in Bangladesh are being … silenced,” Blomgvist said. “Not only is the government failing to protect people’s freedom of expression, it is blaming them for the threats they face and criminalizing the work of [internet writers] and journalists.”

The Amnesty report lists a communication technology law passed in 2006 as the main tool that the Bangladeshi government uses to silence critics.

The government strengthened that law in 2013, giving police the ability to arrest journalists without permission from a judge.

The report says that, since then, several well-known writers and editors have faced “politically motivated criminal charges.” Most of those charged, the report continues, have worked with media organizations that are “critical of the government or supportive of the political opposition.”

Some journalists, Amnesty reports, say the government’s repression today is the worst that reporters have faced since 1991, when the country returned to civilian rule.

Non-religious internet writers in Bangladesh are also facing threats of violence from religious extremists, the report says. It claims that police almost never take action against these extremists.

The report lists the 2013 murder of internet writer Rajib Haider as the first of several murders of non-religious writers and activists that had limited police response.

Several non-religious internet writers told Amnesty that they had received death threats because of their publications. They say they tried to receive help from the police. But the police just suggested that the writers leave the country.

Government officials have rejected the claims of the Amnesty report. Rashed Khan Menon, the Civil Aviation Minister, called the report “old and recycled.”

He told BenarNews on Wednesday, “[It] is not a reflection of the latest situation in Bangladesh. We cannot accept this.”

BenarNews and VOA are each part of the U.S. government-supported Broadcasting Board of Governors.

I’m Pete Musto.

Joshua Fatzick reported this for VOA News. Pete Musto adapted it for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

We want to hear from you. How does the government in your country treat critical voices? Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

journalist(s) – n. a person whose job is collecting, writing, and editing news stories for newspapers, magazines, television, or radio

motivate(d) – v. to be a reason for something

recycle(d) – v. to use something again

reflectionn. something that shows the effect, existence, or character of something else

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