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Bangladesh: HRW concerned over crackdown on free speech

Jailing of poets, lawyers and activists ‘straight out of authoritarian playbook’

Md. Kamruzzaman   | 17.05.2019
Bangladesh: HRW concerned over crackdown on free speech

DHAKA, Bangladesh 

A New York-based international rights watchdog expressed concern Thursday over a crackdown on free speech by Bangladeshi authorities.

“Arresting activists, poets and lawyers for exercising their right to free speech is straight out of the authoritarian playbook,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch (HRW).

He urged the Bangladesh government to stop locking up its critics and review the law to ensure it upholds the right to peaceful expression.

Referring to the recent arrest of Abdul Kaium, a human rights activist, Henry Sawpon, a well-known poet, and Imtiaz Mahmood, a lawyer, the statement said all three were detained and charged under section 57 of the draconian Information Communication and Technology (ICT) Act or its more abusive successor, the Digital Security Act 2018.

The ICT Act was widely criticized for granting police wide-ranging powers to arrest anyone without a warrant for online content that could be interpreted as defamatory to the government, the statement said.

“This week’s arrests show how small the space has become for civil society in Bangladesh,” Adams said, adding Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government should revise the abusive elements of these laws “before the space for peaceful expression disappears entirely”.

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