Slideshow: Is Bangladesh spiraling out of control?

By Sumit Galhotra/CPJ Steiger Fellow on April 19, 2013 12:37 PM ET

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.


The situation in Bangladesh is not merely spiraling out of control; it already has deteriorated to the level where there is blatant and brazen intimidation by the administration. Only a few days back the editor of a daily newspaper critical of the govt was arrested and, allegedly, tortured. World pressure must work to stop this type of aggressive actions by the authorities. Now.

I don't become any more astounded seeing the shortsightedness of mr. Sumit Galhotra. His biased and one sided analysis has actually failed to crystallize the real situation in Bangladesh where, to put it in economists' news "justice is another kind of crime". The ruling awami league government has violated all principles of justice in court and it seems that the government is aggressive to create a civil war by dividing the country into two sides. Mr. Sumit Galhotra doesn't have the information that the so called "movement" in shagbagh is actually far away from being called a "movement". It has been a pro-government "movement" with 24 hours support by the security forces whereas any demonstration by the opposition has been shut down by police through using lethal weapons sometimes. The problem is not the trial, but the standard of the tribunal. The evidence of crimes against the Islamist leaders are almost absent. But all that is submitted to the court has been fabricated and the judges have also been forced to do what the government wishes. They didn't hear the real witness of crimes, rather by second,third or fourth person who have listened such incidents from a "metaphysical witness". The tribunal depended upon the news papers, movies and documentaries of secular cultural activists' assess the crimes. Nowhere in the world has been any such International Crimes Tribunal, before Bangladesh. These are not my mere emotional words, these are reality, mr. Sumit Galhotra.

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