Slideshow: Free Speech in Bangladesh
In Bangladesh, which ranks #146 out of 180 on Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index, a culture war is raging. While the government is secular under the Bangladeshi constitution, it often capitulates to or ignores the crimes of religious fundamentalists. In 2007, Arifur Rahman was arrested and imprisoned for a cartoon that authorities said “hurt religious sentiments.” After his release, Rahman fled to Norway, where he publishes tOOnsMaG.com.
Since he left the country, secularist bloggers have faced prosecution from the government and attacks by religious fundamentalists. In 2013, extremist groups created a list of 84 secularist bloggers and demanded their prosecution under the government’s blasphemy law. Six of those on the list have since been murdered. In 2014, two bloggers were imprisoned for insulting Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, one day after suffering a violent assault by members of a radical student organization. Yet, five men have been arrested in connection with the recent murders, giving the government an opportunity to send a message that killing journalists and bloggers will not be tolerated. Despite this perfunctory gesture, the government continues to prohibit journalists, including cartoonists and bloggers, from expressing themselves freely.
Read Sampsonia Way‘s interview with Arifur Rahman.