As political turmoil continues between Islamists and secularists in Bangladesh, the climate for press freedom is rapidly deteriorating. The tensions stem from an ongoing war crimes tribunal tasked with prosecuting genocide, crimes against humanity, and other crimes dating back to the 1971 war of independence.
Some critics feel that the tribunal, in which several Islamists are standing trial, does not meet international human rights standards, while the opposition, which includes Islamist parties, argue it is being used as a tool by the ruling Awami League to target political opponents. After a senior Islamist leader was given a life term in February, crowds took to the streets to call for the death penalty. These demonstrations–termed the Shahbagh movement–have been widely promoted by secular bloggers in Bangladesh. Islamists responded with protests of their own, saying the bloggers were blasphemous and calling for them to be put to death.
Amid the tensions, journalists and media outlets–some of which are heavily politicized in Bangladesh–are being targeted by all sides with arrests, censorship, and violence. The situation seems to be spiraling out of control.