Monday, December 11

HRW slams govt for gagging opposition, media


Human Rights Watch (HRW) has strongly criticised Bangladesh government’s steps towards “curbing” the activities of BNP, the Jamaat-e-Islami, and the media saying such censorship will inflame the already tense situation in the country.

In a press release issued today, the global rights group said the government should immediately end “use of excessive force, stop arbitrary arrests of members of opposition parties, and lift restrictions on the media.”

“The government’s indiscriminate use of force, arbitrary arrests, and censorship will only inflame an already tense situation,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“Authorities have an obligation to protect the public, but need to do it in a way that doesn’t throw human rights and the rule of law out the window,” he said.

The political situation of the country simmered, once again, in the start of this year centering the first anniversary of the January 5 elections.

Both the ruling Awami League and BNP, who boycotted the polls, announced programmes for the occasion marking it as “democracy saving” and “democracy killing” day respectively.

However, police barricaded BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia inside her office and prevented her from coming out. Her office was locked from outside and placed under heavy watch.

“Hundreds of opposition activists, including from the BNP and the Jamaat, have been rounded up and arrested across the country in recent days,” HRW said.

The rights group also condemned the arrest of BNP acting Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, who was held up inside Dhaka Press Club for a day before being arrested the instant he came out under pressure of ruling party supporters.

“The authorities have also targeted media perceived to be sympathetic to the opposition,” HRW said in regard to the arrest of Ekushey Television Chairman Abdus Salam.

Salam was detained on January 7, shown arrested in a Dhaka cantonment police case under pornography control law after the channel was stopped allegedly for airing “too much coverage” of BNP Senior Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman.

“Shortly after Tarique’s speech was broadcast, the government announced a ban on any further public dissemination, by any medium, of any of his political speeches, without citing any reason,” HRW added.

“The space for speech critical of the government was already under threat before this recent clampdown,” Adams said. “The arrest of the owner and closure of a TV station is not acceptable from a government that claims to be democratic.”