Key Developments

  • Journalists face violence covering renewed political turmoil.

  • Historic verdict hands life terms to killers of journalist.

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.

[Refworld note: The sections that follow represent a best effort to transcribe onto a single page information that appears in tabs on the CPJ's own pages, which also include a number of dynamically-generated graphics not readily reproducible here. Refworld researchers are therefore strongly recommended to check against the original report: Attacks on the Press in 2013.]

Bloggers arrested: 4

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.

Timeline of events:

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.

Journalist Killed: 1

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.

20 deadliest countries:

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

Murders politically motivated: 69%

Government officials or political groups were the source of fire for 69 percent of journalists murdered, according to CPJ research.

Suspected Source of Fire in Murder Cases:

  • 23% Criminal Group
  • 15% Government Officials
  • 54% Political Group
  • 8% Unknown

Global corruption ranking: 136th

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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