Attacks on the Press
The climate of press freedom in Bangladesh rapidly deteriorated this year after a war crimes tribunal sentenced several members of an Islamist party to life imprisonment for crimes dating to the 1971 war of independence. Bloggers helped mobilize thousands of dissatisfied secularists to the streets in calling for the death penalty for those convicted. Thousands of Islamists and other opposition supporters subsequently took to the streets to protest the convictions and demand the arrests of bloggers they deemed atheists. Amid the tension, journalists and news outlets covering or commenting on the events were targeted with arrests, censorship, and violence from all sides. At least one blogger was killed, four bloggers were arrested, and several journalists were attacked this year. Journalists covering local corruption also remained vulnerable to attacks. In June, a court sentenced nine individuals to life imprisonment for the 2005 murder of journalist Gautam Das. Though it remained unclear if the convicted men were the masterminds of the murder, local journalists hailed the verdict as a landmark, the first time a Bangladeshi court successfully prosecuted the murder of a journalist.