[STATEMENT] BANGLADESH: MUST ENSURE BASIC FREEDOMS LEADING UP TO THE ELECTIONS
SEOUL, KOREA – Leading up to the 2018 general elections in Bangladesh, there has been escalated suppression of people’s freedom in expressing their views and criticism. In early August, thousands of Bangladesh students took to the streets in protest against the authorities demanding road safety improvements. What was a peaceful protest by the students ended in violence with the security forces using tear gas, sticks, and rubber bullets into the crowd resulting in hundreds injured. On Aug 5th, Bangladeshi police also arrested a prominent human rights activist and photographer in connection with the protests. Shahidul Alam was taken from his home and detained after he gave an interview to Al Jazeera on the protests. On Aug 4th, the home of human rights activist—Badiul Alam Majumdar was attacked by an unknown vigilant group after a private dinner reception was held with United States of America Ambassador to Bangladesh, Marcia Bernicat, who has been a long time family friend to the Majumdars. The Ambassador’s motorcade was also attacked as she was leaving the home of Mr. Majumdar. Fortunately, the Ambassador was unharmed.
These incidents of oppression of dissent by the government are raising high concern for democracy in Bangladesh. With the increase in crackdowns on dissidents and the restriction of freedom of expression, it is clear that the government is working to subdue dissent from the public to cling to power. Thus, the public’s dissatisfaction is an indication that the government is losing legitimacy in which will be reflected in the elections.
ADN demands the government of Bangladesh to stop all oppression of freedom of expression and assembly and ensure an environment where free and fair elections are guaranteed. As a first step, we demand the immediate release of Shahidul Alam as no one should be detained for speaking up for the people.
Asia Democracy Network