The murder of Bangladeshi blogger Ananta Bijoy Das has sparked severe condemnation from civil society and heightened concerns about free expression and the culture of impunity in the country. This was the third killing of a secular blogger in three months - Washiqur Rahman was hacked to death in March, while in February attackers killed Avjit Roy and seriously injured his wife while the two were visiting Dhaka from the United States. All three criticised religious fundamentalism, defended freedom of expression and thought, and promoted tolerance.
On 12 May 2015, Das was attacked on a busy street near his home in Sylhet, northeastern Bangladesh. According to the police commissioner, masked assailants armed with machetes attacked the blogger as he was heading to work. He was rushed to hospital, but was pronounced dead upon arrival.
Das was a well-known atheist blogger, who regularly wrote for Mukto-Mona ("Free Mind") blog, run by Avijit Roy, and was also the editor of a scientific magazine Jukti ("Reason"). In his writings, he had been critical of religious fundamentalism and attacks on secular thinkers. In 2006, he was awarded with the Rationalist Award, by Mukto-Mona, for "his deep and courageous interest in spreading secular and humanist ideals and messages in a place which is not only remote, but doesn't have a handful of rationalists."
Fellow writers said Das had been on a hitlist drawn up by militants who were behind the February killing of Roy, a US citizen. And he had reportedly received death threats. Asif Mohiuddin, one of the blogger's friends, said in an interview: "I was trying to help Ananta Bijoy for the last two months to get out of the country. I was trying to get his papers together and had submitted them to some organizations to get him out because he was being threatened for a long time."
As news of his murder broke on social media, hundreds of protesters took to the streets demanding government action and for the killers to be brought to justice.
According to Human Rights Watch, the murders of Das and others comes amid a tense political standoff between Bangladesh's ruling party, the Awami League, and the main opposition parties, the Bangladesh National Party and the Jamaat-e-Islami. The government has clamped down on dissenting opinion in media and civil society over the last several years.
IFEX members were among those who strongly condemned the attack. We share some of their responses below.
Demand that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina protect writers at risk in Bangladesh immediately.
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