March 2023 | Increasing online media suppression
UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk has expressed concern over the increasing repression of online voices via Bangladesh’s Digital Security Act (DSA). At least 56 journalists faced arrests, harassment, or torture in the last three months of 2023, according to the rights body, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK). The latest case from 29 March involves a reporter from the leading newspaper ‘Prothom’ being detained and denied bail for producing “false news” in an article covering the cost-of-living crisis. Human rights advocates are urging the government to overhaul the DSA and re-investigate those charged under it.
February 2023 | Government shuts down main opposition party’s newspaper
Dainik Dinkal, the newspaper of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), ceased publishing on 20 February, a day after the Press Council (media regulator) upheld a closure order issued by the government on 25 December. The grounds for the order were that a publisher living abroad violates printing and publication laws. However, the publisher cited by the regulator had resigned and been replaced by the current publisher, Shamsur Rahman Shimul Biswas, in 2016 and moved abroad to escape a criminal conviction for money laundering. Biswas’ appealed to the regulator as Dainik Dinkal’s publisher but was rejected. Rights experts consider the move to be a blatant attack on journalistic pluralism, which follows a resurgence in the past two months in attacks against journalists critical of the ruling party.
January 2023 | Steep rise in deadly sea journeys reflect Rohingya's growing desperation
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) recorded an "alarming rise" in Rohingya deaths at sea in 2022, with at least 348 reported missing or dead. Over 3500 Rohingya fled across the Andaman Sea or Bay of Bengal last year, mostly from Myanmar or Bangladesh, up from 700 in 2021. UNHCR has called for a full regional response and investigation into why Rohingya are fleeing. A January Human Rights Watch report further alleges Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are subject to extortion, harassment, and wrongful arrest by police. Myanmar is currently on trial for genocide at the International Court of Justice over the military crackdown in 2017 that saw over a million (mostly Muslim Rohingya) flee to Bangladesh.
December 2022 | Escalated repression of protests
Thousands of protesters gathered in Dhaka on 10 December in a demonstration organized by the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), calling for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to step down in favour of new elections under a caretaker government. Reports of intimidation and violence were noted, and two top BNP leaders and over 500 supporters were arrested. The protesters called attention to the cost-of-living crisis, corruption and the increasing suppression of dissent; triggered in part by recent clashes (and arrests) between BNP activists and leaders on 7 December which led to at least one death and 60 injured. Human rights activists have criticized the escalated repression of peaceful protests by Bangladeshi authorities given the past month's events.