Is freedom of speech at risk in the ongoing conflict between religious fundamentalists and secular voices in the media?
Over the past two months, thousands of people have taken to the streets of Bangladesh’s capital city, Dhaka, demanding justice for all those involved in war crime tribunals. And the story is evolving into a battle about blasphemy.
Like Pakistan and Egypt before it, Bangladesh’s conflict pits Islamic fundamentalists against secular voices in the media.
Bangladesh has no specific anti-blasphemy law on the books, but political movements like the Hafezat-e-Islami, or the Protectors of Islam, want one. And they are targeting a group of online activists they call ‘the atheist bloggers of Shahbag Square’.
At the height of the unrest in March, one atheist blogger was killed and another four arrested. Mainstream media organisations have not escaped unscathed. News outlets aligned with groups like Hifazat-e-Islam have been shut down by the government of Shaikh Hasina.
It is a difficult balancing act for Bangladeshi authorities who have been struggling to preserve freedom of speech as one side is accused of blasphemy and the other of inciting murder.
To discuss the on-going internal conflict in Bangladesh we talk with: Syed Zain al Mahmood, editor of the Dhaka Tribune; Sabir Mustafa, editor at BBC Bengali Service; writer and journalist Gita Sahgal; and David Bergman, editor of special reports for The New Age newspaper.
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