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.
Amid a crackdown on the Internet, at least four bloggers were arrested in 2013. All four were released on bail, but the trials against them were pending in late year.
March 13, 2013
|Authorities set up a panel to identify what they consider blasphemy on social media sites.|
March 27, 2013
|The country's telecommunications regulator orders two sites to remove hundreds of posts by seven bloggers whose writings it said offended Muslims.|
April 1, 2013
|Police arrest bloggers Subrata Adhikari Shuvo, Mashiur Rahman Biplob, and Rasel Parvez in connection with their Internet posts that police say hurt people's religious beliefs. They are charged with hurting religious sentiments.|
April 3, 2013
|Police arrest popular blogger Asif Mohiuddin on similar accusations.|
April 6, 2013
|Hundreds of thousands of Islamists take to the streets demanding death for bloggers they deem blasphemous.|
August 7, 2013
|Mohiuddin is granted one-month bail.|
September 8, 2013
|A Dhaka court indicts the four bloggers under the Information and Communications Technology Act. If convicted, they face 7 to 14 years in prison.|
Ahmed Rajib Haider had written critically on his blog about Islamic fundamentalism and had called for convictions of the Islamist leaders being tried on war-crimes charges. He was killed by assailants wielding machetes outside his home in Dhaka.
At least 13 other journalists have been killed in direct relation to their work since 1992, making Bangladesh the world's 19th deadliest country for the press, according to CPJ research.
1. Iraq: 161
2. Philippines: 76
3. Syria: 61
4. Algeria: 60
5. Russia: 56
6. Pakistan: 53
7. Somalia: 52
8. Colombia: 45
9. India: 32
10. Mexico: 29
11. Brazil: 27
12. Afghanistan: 24
13. Turkey: 21
14. Sri Lanka: 19
15. Bosnia: 19
16. Rwanda: 17
17. Tajikistan: 17
18. Sierra Leone: 16
19. Bangladesh: 14
20. Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory: 12
Government officials or political groups were the source of fire for 69 percent of journalists murdered, according to CPJ research.
Fifty percent of the journalists killed in Bangladesh since 1992 covered corruption. The country continued to face endemic corruption. In 2013, Bangladesh ranked 136 out of 177 on Transparency International's corruption perception index.
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1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.