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Silencing people in Bangladesh

by David Bergman, 19 March 2015

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Bangladesh Politico

Attempts to silence journalists, writers and bloggers in Bangladesh come from all political directions, but in this country, at least, it is only religious extremists, seeking to silence those who write in support of secularism, atheism or rationalism, who go so far as to attack and kill.

Religious zealots don’t just want secularists to stop writing critically about religion. They want to kill them. And too often they are successful.

The vicious murder on Thursday of Avijit Roy (who wrote for the humanist, rationalist secular blog of Mukto-Mona) was preceded by the fatal attacks on the poet and writer Humayan Azad in February 2004 and the blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider in February 2013. And in January 2013, Asif Mohiuddin also escaped death after being attacked by religious zealots.

So, when considering freedom of speech in Bangladesh, and how different individuals and groups within the country seek to silence those who write about this or that subject, it is important to keep in mind that it is only the religious fundamentalists that kill.

Sure, it is right to be critical of others* (including the government) who from a different perspective try to silence speech and writing in Bangladesh - whether it be to stop publication of writing critical of the government, or of commentary on the International Crimes Tribunal, or questioning aspects of the official narrative of the 1971 war, or whatever if may be.

And, it is certainly very unpleasant to have criminal or other cases filed against you, or be abused on social networks, or have attempts made to destroy your reputation or have other things done to make one’s life difficult (which of course the religious extremists may also try to do)

But these ’silencers’ do not attack or kill people. They don’t seek to physically harm you.

And that is an important distinction to remember.

* Please note that ’others’ does not include, or in any way refer to, the judiciary.