Bloggers arrest: ‘Freedom of expression squeezed’

People, especially bloggers, media and human rights activists, have condemned detention of the three bloggers arrested over allegations of ‘inflammatory postings’ on the internet.Bloggers say this was a direct intervention on ‘freedom of expression’.
Subrata Adhikari Shuvo, Mashiur Rahman Biplob and Rasel Parvez were nabbed late on Monday night. A Dhaka court on Tuesday granted police seven days to grill them in custody for alleged ‘inflammatory postings’.
Blogger Arif Jebtik said it was “frustrating and objectionable how they were called up, arrested and produced before court as if they were convicts”.
He said this might put freedom of expression under threat.
On Tuesday after the arrests, the government promised prompt legal actions if religious sentiments were hurt.
Arif Jebtik said such crackdown under the influence of ‘fundamentalist hype’ would not bring in good results. “Anyone might fall prey to this condition.”
Jebtik was elected the best blogger in an international competition arranged by the Deutsche Welle in 2011.
Blogger Omi Rahman Pial dubbed the government move as “an ultimate step to restrict freedom of expression’.
“Who benefits from these measures?” he asked. “The big Shahbagh movement was possible because of the alternative medium like blogging. Now these actions are intended to block the source of such movements,” he told
“The move was short-sighted”, said blogger Pial who was adjudged the best in an international competition organised by the Deutsche Welle in 2012.
“This government is in line with spirit of the Liberation War. The government are axing their own stump by taking such an inconsiderate decision under pressure from bigots.”
Pial also condemned the charges levelled against the bloggers, raids carried out at their homes and the way they were ‘harassed’.
A wave of protests demanding capital punishment for war criminals began from Feb 5 – initiated first by the bloggers and online activists in Shahbgh. Later various student and cultural organisations joined in what became to be known the Ganajagaran Mancha.
Islamists under the name of Hifazat-e-Islami came down to the streets accusing the members of the Ganajagaran Mancha of blasphemy.
Mancha activists accused the Jamaat-e-Islami of operating behind the garb of Hifazat-e-Islami.
Chhatra Union ex-President Baki Billah said the arrests made were ‘part of a negotiation with the fundamentalists’. “It is clear there has been a negotiation. This is worrisome.”
Billah, also a blogger, said those arrested were produced as ‘convicts, drug smugglers’. “No one with any sense can support this. It seems we are going backwards.”
Professor of Dhaka University’s Department of Mass Media and Journalism Fahmidul Haq condemned the arrest of the bloggers, and at the same time suggested producing more responsible write ups.
“Everyone needs to write with responsibility. That does not mean the government will become Islamists like the Hifazat-e-Islami,” he told
The bloggers were arrested because of the demands raised by the Hifazat-e-Islami, he said. “This is not acceptable. Just like war crimes trials is a lengthy process, correcting the trend of write ups can be made through discussions and criticisms. Instead of that, arrest under the penal code is unacceptable.”
Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and police were ‘over enthusiastic’ to have produced the bloggers in front of the media even before their conviction, Executive Director of Transparency International, Bangladesh (TIB) Dr Iftekharuzzaman said.
A ‘camera trial’ using the media before trial is violation of the fundamental rights, he added.
However, regarding religious inflammation he said legal actions can be taken after investigation if such a thing happened.
“But, it must be taken into consideration whether the current propaganda against Shahbagh is intentional or prejudiced.”
He recalled the incident where attacks on Ramu were instigated from a particular Facebook post.

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