Reporters Without Borders criticizes Bangladesh for insufficient measures to protect journalists during election News
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Reporters Without Borders criticizes Bangladesh for insufficient measures to protect journalists during election

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned Bangladesh on Saturday for not taking adequate safeguards to protect Bangladeshi journalists during elections and provided recommendations to journalists to protect themselves while working. Bangladesh underwent its 12th parliamentary election with army deployment on January 7 in 300 seats and reported a turnout of 40 percent.

RSF decried the lack of attention given by the government “to violence against journalists,” which affirms its loss of credibility with regards to democracy.” RSF calls on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her party to end their harmful grip on information. We recommend that journalists take several steps to cover these elections in the safest possible way,” said RSF’s South Asia desk.

Journalists received a set of guidelines, which advise maintaining regular communication with family to update them on their whereabouts, sharing contact details of trustworthy organizations or lawyers with them, using location trackers, employing safety equipment for self-protection and implementing security measures such as password managers and double authentication in anticipation potential loss, theft or seizure.

The organization highlighted the condition of journalists as three were murdered in 2023, and six are languishing in prison, with several media professionals facing violence allegedly due to their articles against the government. Further, journalists were attacked and arrested by “demonstrators, both opponents and supporters of the government, as well as by the police.”

In 2023, Bangladesh ranked 164 out of 180 on the Press Freedom Index, slightly worse than its 163rd rank in 2022. Further, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on January 5 urged the authorities to ensure free and safe reporting of Sunday’s election. It advocated for an “impartial investigation” of recent attacks on journalists that have hindered their ability to report freely. On November 14, 2023, the United Nations (UN) released a statement expressing its apprehension over the situation of freedom of expression in Bangladesh.

A series of violent attacks have marred the election in Bangladesh. During the pre-polling period, mass arrests of leaders of opposition parties have been reported. The main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, boycotted the election and urged the voters to abstain from voting to “restore democracy.” The UN was “deeply disturbed” by the rise in political violence and the arrest and detention of political leaders for the demand of fair elections. In addition, Clement Voule, UN Special Rapporteur Freedom of Association, expressed his concerns over “the repressive environment surrounding the elections.

Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh’s current Prime Minister, is on the list of 37 press freedom predators in 2021 by RSF. She is the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first President of Bangladesh and a central figure in its independence, and she has been ruling Bangladesh for the past 15 years. She won her first term in 1996 and her second in 2009. Since then, she has won the subsequent elections. According to media reports of January 8, she won her fifth term in the recent election.