High Price of Freedom of Speech and of The Press in Bangladesh

Freedom of speech remains a contentious topic in Bangladesh. Among the fundamental rights guaranteed by the country’s constitution are freedom of speech and freedom of the press. But even so, many suffer from a culture of censorship and impunity. In Bangladesh, these two pillars of democracy come with a staggering price.

When the Awami League won the 2008 Election, it promised to protect and uphold freedom of the press. As a matter of fact, its election manifesto stated that freedom of media and information will be ensured, and that trial for the assassination of journalists will be made expeditiously. All these, however, have been all been empty promises.

The past few years saw the decline in the standard of free expression in Bangladesh. Despite the constitutional guarantee and promises of the ruling party, the country has nevertheless implemented laws that curtail such freedom and has established a government that attempts to inhibit all forms of media and speech.

For instance, an author named Shamsuzzoha Manik was apprehended by authorities for publishing a book called “Islam Bitorko,” which translates into “Debate on Islam.” The book was branded as blasphemous.

Bangladesh’s laws cover all forms of publication—whether print or online. This means blogs and social media posts are affected. A person can be arrested for a mere online comment that expresses opposition against the government. Such was the case for student activist Dilip Roy, who was charged in 2016 for making “derogatory remarks” against the prime minister through a Facebook status where Roy criticized the prime minister’s decision to support the construction of a coal power plant that poses a threat to mangrove forests in the country.

Punishment for writing provocative blasphemous of anti-government sentiments involves jail time and taking down books from circulation. Through Bangladesh’s Information and Telecommunication (ICT) Act, the penalty for an online offense can range from 7 to 14 years of imprisonment. The parameters of such law target writings that are defamatory, blasphemous, or are violations against national security. Thus, number of arrests for online expression has increased throughout the years.

The attack against free speech in Bangladesh is not a new phenomenon. As a matter of fact, it has been a subject of heavy scrutiny ever since the 1970s, when poet Daud Haider received death threats for writing poems that criticized religious beliefs. He was later exiled from the country and lived as a stateless person in India.

The difference between the 1970s and today, however, is that the threats have become increasingly alarming. Journalists and free thinkers are facing threats from two fronts: the law and extremist groups.

Radical Islamists were suspected to be behind the assassination of bloggers who staunchly criticized Islamic fundamentalism. One of the victims was writer Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-American activist. He was hacked to death in Dhaka while walking home from a book fair. A month later Washiqur Rahman suffered the same tragic fate after he took to social media to express his outrage over Roy’s death.

Broadcast media, on the other hand, is also a victim of repression. It is controlled largely by the government. The Ministry of Information is particularly in charge with handing licenses for commercial and community TV stations. In 2011, the Bangladeshi government introduced a law that censors TV programs and movies. The law, in effect, prevents broadcasters from airing material that directly or impliedly criticizes the government and its offices. Content relating to non-Muslim festivals such as Christmas has also been banned.

In 2015, the government also began requiring online news portals to register themselves with authorities. Journalists working for unregistered media outlets would have their accreditations cancelled.

The country’s intense political climate also affects how news outlets are being run. Private media outlets, including Bangladesh newspapers, are highly partisan when it comes to political coverage. Owners of these networks and publications control what is being published or broadcasted in such a manner that it would reflect their personal political affiliations. Reporting on social issues, such as labor, in almost all Bangladesh newspaper outlets have become biased in favor of businessmen and politicians.

Censorship is no longer limited to broadcast media and online blogs. Internet-based content such as those on YouTube, Facebook, and other social-media platforms are now covered by it. The Bangladeshi government even went as far as directly enlisting Facebook as an agent of censorship, requesting a set of rules specific only to Bangladesh that would regulate critical religious posts.

The attacks against members of the media as well as independent bloggers have resulted in what is known as self-censorship. Violence against journalists coupled with government’s lack of action and refusal to serve justice has resulted in heightened self-censorship. People are now more afraid to express their views on whatever platform. Some journalists are avoiding sensitive topics such as those involving the government, military, and judiciary. Some have stopped writing altogether out of fear of getting punished.

According to a blogger named Bonya Ahmed, many of the writers and activists that were killed heavily campaigned for equal rights for women, minorities, and the LGBT community in the country.

Head of Reporters Without Borders Benjamin Ismail stated that the press freedom situation in Bangladesh has grown to alarming levels. The country’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index is slipping. Its rank is 146 out of 180 countries, down from last year’s 144. See the report here

Despite calls for reform and action from human rights watchers and activists locally and globally, the situation in Bangladesh has yet to see any improvement. Instead, a culture of impunity has gone into full bloom.

The current administration led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has shown low tolerance to criticism, instituting a crackdown on Bangladesh newspapers and broadcast networks that oppose the government.

The judiciary has failed to mete out justice for the victims. Investigations for cases are generally slow. Not only has the government failed to stop the killings, but it has resorted to victim-blaming and instilling fear in people by warning them to be careful about what they say and write lest they suffer harrowing consequences. More often than not, journalists and bloggers are merely advised to stop writing or flee the country to avoid imprisonment or persecution.

Free expression and press have become so repressed and undermined in Bangladesh that there’s fear of it becoming a taboo. For the government, the arrests are justified for being false criticism. For journalists, activists, free thinkers, and every Bangladeshi the arrests constitute acts of repression, of silencing people and stifling their minds.

Freedom of bangladesh newspapers
Mukto Mona

Bangladesh News on Radio


Overview of Radio News Channels in Bangladesh

With all conventional news channels, the radio industry of Bandgladesh was unchartered terrotory for journalism for only so long. The amount of radio channels operating is staggering and ever growing, with the obvious spurt of radio news channels allowing people to get timely updates whether on the go, or without regular access to the internet or print media. For our readers, we talk about the top 10 radio based news reporting efforts in the country.

BBC Bangla

BBC is a trademark associated with investigative journalism and whistleblowing efforts. As an established platform, having started off as just a news casting hot spot, BBC has offered each country its journalistic and reporting services in their own country. Backed by BBC’s global reputation, BBC Bangla enjoys an audience through out the country as well as over the internet on BBC’s sanctioned radion feeds.

Founding year: 1941
Founder: None
Group: British Broadcasting Corporation

Bangladesh Betar Live

Having played an important part in the war of liberation in 1971, this radio news channel has held many ecolades of gratitude and chivalry for it’s stance in repoting news. Due to heavy shelling through the war, the radio station was moved to many locations but did not once stop its contribution to the news reporting industry and channels of the region.

Founding year: 1939
Founder: None
Group: Government of Bangladesh

Voice of America

Following the franchise, the Bengali version of the pro-western news station was innaugurated in 1958, to provide the region with the facilities of the franchise throught radio and later the internet. As part of the VOA network, all information is exclusively dervived from the parent source, which takes great pride in its accurate and tireless efforts towards transparency of investigative journalism.

Founding year: 1958
Founder: None
Group: U.S Government

China Radio

Being so close geographically, it made perfect sense for the Chinesse to offer service of radio based reporting to the region. With a focus on regional policy and economic conditions the channel offers all information and editorial platforms for the average listener to provide comments and feedback as well get related material from the internet portal for China Radio International.

Founding year: 1969
Founder: Madam Li L Jun
Group: Government of the People’s Republic of China

Radio Russia

The Russian radio airspace has a huge number of channels on both the FM and the UKV frquency bands. As with China, introduction of the radio based service was launched as a development effort for the region. The channels offers all its content in the Bengali language, with Russian announcers who know the language. The channel airs information about regional political and economical conditions.

Founding year: 1943
Founder: None
Group: Government of the Russian Federation

Radio Tehran

With a world wide audeince, the Radio Tehran news service in Bengali is broadcasted twice a day in the region. The radio service offers updated news as well as weekly programs for entertainment and lifestyle. The radio service is co jointly enjoyed by a hefty Bengali population in Iran.

Founding year: 1982
Founder: None
Group: Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Radio Today Live

To extend the Radio Today Live franchise, the Bengali version of the service began it’s opeartions from Dhaka, now having expanded to more than 10 stations in the country. The only 24 hour service of its nature, apart from the show titled “Morning Express” it hosts all content pertaining to entertainment, lifestyle and other non-political aspects.

Founding year: 2008
Founder: None
Group: Radio Today Live, RSA

Radio Foorti Live

With 9 of the most popluar RJ’s in the country, this channel is the all out musical sensation for the latest news relating to pop and hip-hop culture. The stations aim is to bring all kinds of music and music talent to the forefront and hence showcases music from all over the world. It also has it’s own talent hunt competition which allows raw talent to get a platform for professional RJ-ship.

Founding year: 2006
Founder: None
Group: MGH Group

Radio Shadhin Live Dhaka FM 90.4 live radio

With the motto “to rise up”, the stations 4 years journey (2012) was initially met with a great response. More than 15 million people were recorded to have heard the initial transmitions from within the country adn surrounding regions, including the internet based audience. The station has a website and a dedicated application that allows you to access the channel without regular radio technology, through the internet.

Founding year: 2012
Founder: Aly Zaker
Group: Asiatic 360

Dhaka FM 90.4 – Live Radio Bhumi 92.8

The joint program of Radio Bhumi and Dhaka FM has been inspirational and funcdemental in the development of infotainment and news reporting collaborations, especially within the radio sphere. This joint partnership has brought the best of both worlds, with each of the station/concern bringing in their take and approach towards news, music and radio based communications.

Founding year: 2009
Founder: Shahid Tajuddin Ahmed Sarani Tejgaon
Group: Impress Group Bangladesh

Bangladesh Sports News


Overview of Sports Newspapers in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has been host to a range of sporting events and fashions, with Cricket among the most celebrated sports. With such a celebratory essence, sports in general enjoy a spectacular readership and hence it is no surprise that Bangladesh has numerous newspapers highlighting the latest events and happenings. Here is our pick of the finest. Read on further for more information.

BDCricTeam.com

Started in 2011, the web portal claims Cricket as it’s heartbeat. The official incharge and the contributing team all attest to the importance of Cricket to them personally as well to the nation as a whole. With up to date statistics and ongoing debates, the forums are flooded with debates and opinions that justify the sport’s essence within the high spirited youth and elderly sports aficionados of the country.

Founding year: 2011
Founder: Md Jabed Ali
Group: None

SportsTimes24

Like other web portals, this one has a host of features that make it of interest to the global sports readership. The portal allows one to get up to date stats, with options for live streaming of matches. It dominates the online scape with it social media and other presence, making sure you can catch a version of the portal if one is inaccessible whether due to regional restrictions or otherwise.

Founding year: 2014
Founder: Rafe Sadnan Adel
Group: None

BSPN24

Hailing as the first of it’s kind, this is the first Bangladeshi online news portal that provides coverage over all international and national sporting events and aspects. With a humongous readership both domestic and foreign, this portal has readers and contributors since the day of it’s conception.

Founding year: 2014
Founder: Md Jahidul Islam
Group: None

Bangladesher Khela

Another first of it’s kind, this web portal provides a lot of cool features apart from the regular stats and forums for debate. It has a shopping portal where you can find almost all sports related equipment aside from other celebrity endorsed merchandise. It also has a

Founding year: 2015
Founder: Reaz Uddin Al Mamun
Group: None

Khelar Jagat

Khelar Jagat meaning “Sports World”, is the first Bangladeshi online news portal that focuses on domestic sporting events and publishes most of its listings in Bengali, for the Bengali speaking readership. This site is one of the few that allow you to post to the blog as a guest poster as long as you follow their guidelines. Started as pro-Bangladeshi sports portal, it has a flamboyant management structure and editorial policy.

Founding year: 2010
Founder: NA
Group: None

SportsNewsBD

Founded in 2012, the website offers material completely published in Bengali. The website has a wide range of sports covering all domestic and international events, with a particular focus on Cricket and Football because of the nation’s budding interest and inclination towards the sports. The portal claims that it was the first to offer these services completely in Bengali.

Founding year: 2012
Founder: NA
Group: None

Probashi Bangladeshi News

Overview of Probashi Newspapers in Bangladesh

Probhashi is a word from the Bengali language which refers to people of Bangali heritage who were born or currently reside outside the country. Because this population consists in huge numbers, it was hardly a surprise when newspapers targetting this audience came into existance. Becasue of the geographical and demographical differences, the following collection of Probashi newspapers are our selection of the ones that do their job better than all the rest. Have a read:

Akhon Shomoy

For the celebration of the year 2000, the years entrance witnessed a US-Bangladesh joint cooperative venture, in the form of this newspapers. Published as a tabloid from the state of New York from the states, initially monthly, then weekly. Focusing on expat news, it highlights issues and queries and features feedback and tips all for the expats of Bengal residing in the US.

Founding year: 2000
Founder: None
Group: Government of the U.S.

Bengali Times

As the name suggests, this newspaper is meant to serve as insight into the countries affairs for the expats and the visiting nationals who would like to stay up to date with matters of the home country. Begali Times was the first paper of Non-Residential Bengalis (NRB) focus to have launched in Canada and allows the public to share thier NRB expereince as well as contribute to the newspapers content.

Founding year: 2008
Founder: None
Group: Canadian Government

Thikana

As the name suggests, this newspaper is meant to serve as insight into the countries affairs for the expats and the visiting nationals who would like to stay up to date with matters of the home country. Begali Times was the first paper of Non-Residential Bengalis (NRB) focus to have launched in Canada and allows the public to share thier NRB expereince as well as contribute to the newspapers content.

Founding year: 1990
Founder: M.M. Shaheen
Group: Prometheus Int’l Inc.

News-bangla.com

As the name suggests, this newspaper was cocieved as an online news portal dedicated to sharing all kinds of news for the NRB and expatriots. Published and updated from Washington D.C., it highlights all NRB related and focused news from all over the world. The portal allows options such as creating your own user acount and uploading content and reported content.

Founding year: 1990
Founder: None
Group: None

Janomot

With its roots in the Great Britain, Janomot was the first Bengali newspaper published in the UK as well as the first minority-language based newspaper outside of Bangladesh. It focuses on everything from news to entertainment with its weekly print. It enjoys a global subscribership and is heavily pupolar amongst NRB’s in all continents. It offers online versions of the printed paper as well as an online portal for an e-paper version.

Founding year: 1969
Founder: None
Group: None

Weekly Ajkal

Ajkal stands for today and tomorrow, hence the ironically named weekly paper has a lot of variety of content and focuses just as much on the hot and trending as it does on subjects such as politics and international finance. The paper is based out of India and is one of the few that have broken traditions of astronomical predictions and coments.

Founding year: 1981
Founder: Abhik Kumar Ghosh
Group: Aajkaal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.

Jogajog

Meaning communication, the paper shares its name with that of a very popular Novel by a Bengali literary. The paper hailing from Canada enjoys a global readership and has a lot of variety when it comes to international and domestic news as well as lifestyle adn entertainment sections. Its focus is on allowing the NRB community to communicate its concerns and developments with other such communities and the poeple back home.

Founding year: 2008
Founder: None
Group: Charkha Advertising Ltd.

Weekly Porichoi

The newspaper getting published from New York is one of the few that offer both version (printed and online) free of charge. The papers are available for reading and downloading (over the internet – also free). It is widely read by residents of the state, and is often found in public places such as cafes and restaraunts. It offers a weekly review of all news gone by and offers indepth analysis and coverage on matters journalistic.

Founding year: 1994
Founder: Najmul Ahsan
Group: NA

WorldBangla.c0m

Like before, the name gives away the electronic nature of the paper. It is published and hosted from the U.S. and collaborates with a range of other online services to provide complete and up to date information on all things reportive. It does’nt focus on NRB news even though the content does target the audience. The portal gets atleast 10% of traffic from Bangladesh.

Founding year: 2001
Founder: A.M Chowdury Jehady
Group: World Bangla Ltd.

Weekly Potrica

The first and ofcourse only broadsheet Bengali newspaper published from the UK , the weekly Potrica talks about issues relating to the British Bangladeshi community. It is published from London, every Monday. It gained considerable fame in 2008 when the trunover in management laid out new plans for public campaigning.

Founding year: 1997
Founder: A.M Chowdury Jehady
Group: World Bangla Ltd.

Khulna Newspapers


Overview of Newspapers from Khulna in Bangladesh

As the third largest city of the country, many news mediums have come up to boost journalistic efforts in the region. With Navy command centers and the industrial as well as logistical setups requiring use of the second largest port in the region, the city has a few important and credible reporting channels. Each newspaper and news service provides something new and fresh and adds handsomely to the reporting process.

The Daily Purbancal

With just a FaceBook page that isn’t much detailed, the whole service revolves around a single site. The printed version is available online with a streamlined interface highlighting the more credible and general aspects of reporting for the average reader. The service is simple offering social media sites to stay in touch. Published as a daily in print, and updated in real time online, it enjoys a domestic and foreign audience all the same.

Founding year:NA
Founder: Sahid Sarowar
Group:NA

Mathabhanga

As an online portal, the site excels beyond par with accessibility for the user kept at primary. The service offers an app for smart phones and social media outlets for staying up to date all the time. It caters to the sports section as well as news, both local and foreign alongside editorials and entertainment sections. With a focus on local news it also displays cool features such as the local weather and sorts comments based on a number of criteria.

Founding year:1991
Founder: Sardar Al-Amin
Group:NA

Khulnanews.com

This news services claims to go ahead and beyond the conventional means of news reporting, stating itself to be the first online news community (as opposed to just a service) in the city of Khulna. The communities tagline is “where news comes first” and it has a wide range of topics for the reader. Government departments have their own section just as women, NRB’s and other smaller readerships.

Founding year:2009
Founder: NA
Group:NA

Shomoyer Khobor

Started off in 2010, the four page newspaper is available in Khulna for a price lesser than the number of pages. It simple and clean and touches upon a host of topics and information, the timely updated details of which are available on the internet on the service’s website.

Founding year:2010
Founder: NA
Group:NA

Andolonerbazar

Hailing as the first daily Bengali national newspaper, the service has an impressive track record, despite being only 4 pages in total content. The online version provides timely updates for the printed news as well as other covering all aspects of reporting and cotent. It’s main focus is always targetted to the issues and happenings of the Kushtia region with international and national news as well.

Founding year:1993
Founder: Manzur Ehsan Choudhury
Group:None

Kushtia Times

As the name suggests, its the daily news paper for the region of Kushtia as well as the local voice for the people. It’s focus is on the region with editorials and evaluations for the regions conditions. Greatly contributed to by the people native to the region, the news paper celebrates a loyal and vast readership. The service’s motto is “we say what others try to suppress”.

Founding year:2011
Founder: NA
Group:None