UPDATE: Spoof Video Maker Seeks Restitution, Pardon From UAE Government

Posted May 5th, 2015 at 1:06 pm (UTC+0)
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Shezanne1

 

More than a year and a half ago, we brought you the story of an American citizen jailed in the UAE for making a spoof YouTube video.

In October 2013, Shezanne Cassim and a group of friends produced a video which poked fun at  some youths in the Satwa neighborhood of Dubai. Dubbed the “Satwa Gs” back in the 1990s, they were stereotyped as “ganstas” who adopted hip hop and rap culture, music and dress — with a lot of false bravado.

The video (below) shows a fictional street-fighting school where the Gs learn how to fight defend themselves – using ridiculous weapons such as the sandals which are worn by UAE men.

Six months after posting the video on YouTube, Cassim found himself locked inside a maximum-security prison, charged with using the internet to publish “caricatures” that are “liable to endanger state security and its higher interests or infringe on public order.”

Cassim served nine months in prison and was deported to the United States in January of this year.  Now, Cassim is appealing to the government of the UAE for a full pardon, restitution to himself and his family — and finally, to be allowed back into the country which, he says, is the only home he’s really ever known.

In a May 9 letter UAE President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Cassim asks for amends for harm done to himself and his family:

My time in prison destroyed my career, and my family’s efforts to secure my release nearly bankrupted them. My imprisonment caused significant financial and emotional hardship, and we all felt betrayed by the country in which my siblings and I grew up and for whose growth my parents gave decades of their lives.
Today, Cassim is living in Minnesota, a long way from the place he calls home.
“That is probably the most traumatic part of my experiences,” he said.  “From the family I left behind to the childhood friends that I’ve known for almost 25 years.  There’s a good chance I’m not going to see a lot of them again.  To have all that just stripped from you is extremely traumatic.”

Being separated from the UAE is hard enough, but what makes it worse, says Cassim, is that he feels he was convicted of a crime he did not commit.

His lawyer Susan Burns says she is mystified over Cassim’s legal treatment.

“The video is a far cry from anything that could even remotely be called terrorist activity,” she said.  And she points to a January 13, 2015 interview with BBC TV, in which the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, was asked about Cassim’s case.

Sheikh Maktoum’s answer?

“We’re not perfect, but we are doing our best.”

What do you think?  Take a look at the video, below, and share your thoughts.

 

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

Standing Ovation for RFE/RL Azeri Journalist Ismayilova

Posted May 2nd, 2015 at 10:24 am (UTC+0)
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Courtesy, Khadija Ismayilova Prisoner of Conscience Facebook Administrators

Courtesy, Khadija Ismayilova Prisoner of Conscience Facebook Administrators

We have more news about Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reporter Khadija Ismayilova:

When the detained Azeri journalist entered a Baku courtroom Tuesday of this week, she received a standing ovation and loud applause from onlookers.

That prompted guards to place her into an all-glass, sound-proof box. When her lawyers asked the judge to release her from the box so that they could communicate with her, the guards refused.

That’s when her lawyers stepped into the box with her.

Ismayilova, a former VOA reporter and journalist with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty was attending a preliminary hearing at the Court of Appeals, looking for the court to reconsider their decision to fine her for libel, one of many charges pending against her.

Rights groups say the charges are an attempt to silence her.

The court rescheduled her hearing.

Ismayilova was convicted of libel and fined the equivalent of $ 2,400 on Feb. 23.

She has been jailed in Baku since December 2014.  As RePRESSed earlier reported, she recently won the prestigious 2015 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award.

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

Jailed RFE/RL Reporter Khadija Ismayilova Wins Prestigious Literary Prize

Posted April 16th, 2015 at 4:31 pm (UTC+0)
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I read with some pleasure this afternoon news that a former VOA colleague has been awarded a top prize for her work.

Khadija Ismayilova, 38, spent time as a reporter for the VOA’s Azerbaijan language service a few years ago, where I got to know her as a a cheerful but fearless reporter, who often expressed strong opinions about governance and transparency in her native Azerbaijan.

In 2008, she returned to Baku, where she served for two years as chief of RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani service, Radio Azadliq.

As RePRESSed earlier reported,  Ismayilova was arrested on December 5, 2014, on charges that she ‘incited’ a colleague to attempt suicide.  She has been held ever since — even after that colleague withdrew his complaint.

On February 13, an Azeri court charged Ismayilova with embezzlement, illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion and abuse of power.  If convicted she could face a dozen years in prison.

Khadija

Khadija Ismayilova, courtesy Free Khadija Facebook group.

On February 24, in a separate case, a Baku court convicted Ismayilova on charges of libel and criminal defamation for posting a scanned document on her Facebook page that she said was a contract used by the Ministry of National Security to hire an informer to infiltrate the political opposition.  She faces up to three years in prison on those charges.

Press freedom groups accuse the government of Azerbaijan to silence her as part of a general crackdown on dissent.

This week, the PEN American Center, a New-York-based advocacy group that works to advance literature, defend free speech and foster international literary fellowship, awarded Ismayilova its 2015 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award.

Established in 1987, the award has been granted to more than 40 writers from around the world, the majority of whom were prison at the time they were honored.

“The high-profile case of award-winning Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) journalist Khadija Ismayilova demonstrates the lengths to which the Azeri government will go to silence its critics.” – Open Letter to Thomas Bach, International Olympic Committee President, on Khadija Ismayilova’s Imprisonment, April 15, 2015

Azerbaijan is slated to host the first-ever European Games in June of this year. A group of prominent journalists this week joined PEN in writing an open letter to International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach, calling on the IOC to put pressure on Azerbaijan’s government to release Ismayilova and drop the charges against her before the games in Baku begin on June 12.

“The environment in Azerbaijan has become increasingly repressive for journalists,” the letter reads.  “Media are strictly controlled by the government, leaving few independent sources of news and information. At least 26 writers are currently detained, on trial, or jailed in Azerbaijan, and others are subject to harassment, threats, and violence.”

The letter calls on the Azeri government to take concrete steps toward achieving greater respect for press freedom, including the release of other journalists currently in jail.

“We ask you to reach out to President [Ilham] Aliyev and strongly urge him to take immediate action to ensure that the spirit of the Olympic Charter is upheld and that the rights of Khadjia Ismayilova and her fellow journalists are vindicated,” the letter says.

The signers include prominent journalists from the New York Times, Washington Post and leading sports media.  Click here to read the letter in its entirety.

 

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

Cuba: #FreeTaniaBrughuera

Posted April 13th, 2015 at 4:39 pm (UTC+0)
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Tania_Bruguera_-_Twitter_Photos_Search_-_2015-04-13_15.52.34

 

Back in 2009, Cuban performance artist Tania Bruguera staged her work Tatlin’s Whisper #6 in Havana without a hitch.  This past January, she planned to restage the event in Havana’s Revolutionary Square, but authorities not only stopped the performance, they arrested Bruguera, who has been blocked from leaving the country ever since.

Tatlin’s Whisper #6 (in Spanish, El Susurro de Tatlin #6), is the sixth piece of a series which, according to Bruguera’s own statement, “examines the relationship between apathy and anesthetization of the images in the mass media.”

It’s not really a play, nor even a performance.  It is a participatory event that consists of a podium and a microphone.  Two hundred disposable cameras are distributed among the audience, who are encouraged to record the event.  Anyone who cares to express himself is allowed one minute at the podium.  A white dove is placed on his or her shoulder and removed when one minute has passed.  During that minute, the speaker is encouraged to speak freely.

View the subtitled 2009 performance, below:

El Susurro de Tatlin #6 (versión para La Habana) from Estudio Bruguera on Vimeo.

 

Monday, the New York nonprofit art group Creative Time joined the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Witte de With in Rotterdam in restaging their own respective versions of the performance, titled #YoTambienExijo: A Restaging of Tatlin’s Whisper #6.

Their goal is not only to express solidarity with Brugheura’s but many other artists across the world who have been punished for exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression.

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

Mexicans Want Carmen Aristegui Back On Air

Posted April 10th, 2015 at 12:15 pm (UTC+0)
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#MexicoWantsAristeguiBack_-_Twitter_Photos_Search_-_2015-04-09_10.30.44

 

“A cross between Christiane Amanpour and a dog with a bone.”

That’s how the Los Angeles Times describes the prominent, hard-hitting journalist Carmen Aristegui, who is famous throughout Mexico for her tough investigations into government corruption.

In addition to blogging at Aristegui Noticias (“News”),  Aristegui anchors a news program on CNN Spanish and, up until March, hosted a morning talk show on MVS radio in Mexico City, daily fare for many Mexican commuters.

Last month, MVS radio fired two of her staff investigators — the network says they had used the MVS logo, without authorization, on a new whistle-blowing website, Mexicoleaks.  

Those same two journalists had, only four months earlier, revealed a questionable real estate deal involving Mexico’s first lady, former soap opera star Angelica Rivera, and a contracting firm that does lucrative business with the Mexican government.

Months earlier, the same two journalists implicated a leading Mexico City politician in a prostitution ring. He denied the accusation and was later exonerated by an electoral tribunal.

In her March 13 broadcast, Aristegui called for Daniel Lizárraga and Irving Huerta to be reinstated to their jobs. MVS said  it would not give into her ultimatum and fired her for “breach of trust” three days later.

Aristegui calls her dismissal is an attack on free speech.  Her supporters say they believe the government pressured MVS into firing Aristegui and her team, and have launched a twitter campaign using the hashtag #MexicoWantsAristeguiBack.

See statements by Mexican political analyst, writer, and university professor Denise Dresser and prominent journalist and author, Lydia Cacho, in video below:

 

 

MVS insists it is committed to freedom of expression — as, it says, is demonstrated by the fact that Aristegui worked for them in the first place.

All this comes as the government struggles for popularity and public trust ahead of mid-term elections in June. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s approval rating has slumped dramatically in the wake of the disappearance of 43 students last September from Iguala, in Guerrero State—reportedly at the hands of police officials linked to drug traffickers.

 

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

Turkey Blocks Social Media Over Hostage Photo

Posted April 6th, 2015 at 2:05 pm (UTC+0)
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turkey_ban_-_Twitter_Photos_Search_-_2015-04-06_10.16.26

 

Turkey on Monday blocked access to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube over the publication of an image of a Turkish prosecutor who was taken hostage and killed last week by leftist militants.

The ban on Facebook was lifted after the social media giant removed the photo. Twitter reportedly also complied with the demand to remove the image and related Twitter accounts and was expected to be unblocked as well.

The Wall Street Journal quoted a Facebook spokesman saying that the company had received a “valid court order” in Turkey to “restrict access to certain content or our service would be blocked.”

The spokesman said that while it complied with the order, Facebook is appealing it.

According to the daily Hürriyet newspaper, prosecutors ordered that authorities block dozens of other websites that ran a photo of a militant holding a gun to the head of Mehmet Selim Kiraz, the senior prosecutor in a controversial case of the killing of a fifteen-year old during June 2013 protests at Gezi Park.

Two militants with alleged links to the outlawed far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party Front (DHKP-C) took Mehmet Selim Kiraz hostage in Istanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse on March 31.

Kiraz suffered five gunshot wounds and died in hospital after the eight-hour hostage drama, during which security forces killed the two captors.

The government banned thirteen media organizations and journalists from covering a subsequent press conference and Kiraz’s funeral. Authorities also launched a criminal investigation into seven Turkish newspapers for publishing the hostage photos.

Prime Minister Davutoğlu said that publishing the photos was immoral and accused newspapers of being “tools of terrorist propaganda.”

Hürriyet, one of the targets of the ban and criminal investigation, rejected the accusations in an April 3 editorial.

“We just want to do journalism. We do not want to face bans with policemen waiting on street corners, trying to prevent our colleagues from doing their work,” the daily paper said.

 

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

Another Blogger Hacked To Death In Bangladesh; Calls To End Impunity

Posted April 1st, 2015 at 10:33 am (UTC+0)
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Activists are expressing outrage in the wake of the second brutal murder of a blogger in Bangladesh in recent weeks.

Monday morning, blogger Oyasiqur Rahman was attacked by three men with large knives in the streets near his Dhaka home. Police arrested two suspects at the scene, identified as students at two separate madrassas — or religious schools.  Police are hunting a third man who escaped.  Authorities said the two arrestees confessed to killing Rahman because of his religious writings.

Rahman, who worked in a travel agency, was not professional journalist, but he did use a variety of pseudonyms to post comments and articles by other writers critical of religious extremism.  On Facebook, he used the name Oyasiqur Babu, and he had recently changed his profile picture to the hashtag #Iamavijit, in honor of prominent Bangladeshi-American writer and blogger Avijit Roy, an atheist who, as RePRESSed earlier reported, was killed in a similar attack in late February.

The U.S. Embassy in Dhaka posted this statement on its Facebook page Tuesday:

We are horrified and deeply saddened by the murder of Oyasiqur Rahman Babu, and we offer our condolences to his family and friends. There is no excuse for such barbaric attacks which are a direct assault upon universal human rights and undermine freedom of expression. We stand in solidarity with the people of Bangladesh as they confront religious intolerance and violence.

(1)_Oyasiqur_Babu_-_Twitter_Search_-_2015-04-01_10.00.20

 

The UN in Bangladesh also expressed horror over the killing, which UN resident coordinator Robert Watkins said is part of a worrying trend of attacks against activists in the country.

“While noting the on-going police investigation, the UN is concerned that this brutal murder contributes to a reduction in the freedom of expression and opinion in the country,” Watkins said in an online statement.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is callling on the government of Bangladesh to conduct a thorough and timely investigation into this and other attacks, in order to protect the country’s journalists against future attacks.

Bangladesh has seen a spate of such attacks in recent years, almost all of them over religious issues.

In January 2013, blogger Asif Mohiuddin, who also criticized religious fundamentalism, was stabbed but did not die.

In February 2013, blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was hacked to death by members of an Islamist militant group called the Ansarullah Bengali Team. Later the same year, Islamist groups called for the execution of bloggers they said had committed blasphemy. While arrests were made after those murders, there have been no convictions.

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

AP Chief: ‘Killing Journalists Should Be A War Crime’

Posted March 30th, 2015 at 2:36 pm (UTC+0)
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State police officers escort Clemente Martinez, who is arrested in connection with the murder of journalist Moises Sanchez, out of a court house in Veracruz January 26, 2015. Mexican prosecutors are investigating a small-town mayor in connection with the murder of a journalist in the Mexican Gulf coast state of Veracruz, whose brutalized body was found over the weekend, a state official said on Monday. A local drug gang member, confessed to kidnapping and killing journalist Sanchez, in league with five accomplices, Veracruz state prosecutor Luis Bravo said. The accused said he was given orders by a local police official and the bodyguard of Medellin de Bravo Mayor Omar Cruz. REUTERS/Yahir Ceballos

State police officers escort Clemente Martinez, who is arrested in connection with the murder of journalist Moises Sanchez, out of a court house in Veracruz January 26, 2015. Mexican prosecutors are investigating a small-town mayor in connection with the murder of a journalist in the Mexican Gulf coast state of Veracruz, whose brutalized body was found over the weekend, a state official said on Monday. A local drug gang member, confessed to kidnapping and killing journalist Sanchez, in league with five accomplices, Veracruz state prosecutor Luis Bravo said. The accused said he was given orders by a local police official and the bodyguard of Medellin de Bravo Mayor Omar Cruz. REUTERS/Yahir Ceballos

 

Since 1992, more than 1,000 journalists have been killed while doing their jobs in conflicts across the globe — 61 in 2014 alone, and four of those worked for the Associated Press, the world’s oldest and largest news gathering organization.  It was, says the wire service’s CEO Gary Pruitt, as deadly as any year in AP’s nearly 170-year history.

“It used to be that when media wore PRESS emblazoned on their vest, or PRESS or MEDIA was on their vehicle, it gave them a degree of protection,” he told the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club Monday.

“But guess what: That labeling now is more likely to make them a target,” he said.

Last month, AP and a number of other media organizations signed A Call for Global Safety Principles and Practices, which outlines what steps news organizations should take – with both staff and freelancers – to ensure their safety and well-being, calling it a “moral responsibility.”

Before setting out on any assignment in a conflict zone or any dangerous environment, journalists should have basic skills to care for themselves or injured colleagues. – From A Call for Global Safety Principles and Practices, February 2015.

But training alone isn’t enough, said Pruitt.  International laws need to change.

“Under existing international law, journalists are considered civilians in conflicts between states,” he said, explaining that currently, it’s the responsibility for each nation to investigate and prosecute those who kill journalists.

“It is at best a patchwork system. At worst, totally ineffective: In 90 percent of journalists’ murders, there are no legal proceedings or investigations. Only four percent of killers are convicted,” he said.

Pruitt is calling for the creation of a new protocol to the Geneva Conventions which would make the kidnapping or killing of journalists a war crime, and he proposes that the International Criminal Court specifically cover the killing of journalists among the other war crimes it investigates.

Maybe this won’t save lives, he told correspondents, but at least it will raise awareness that journalists, like medical professionals, should not be the target of violence in conflict zones.

 

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

#CollateralFreedom: RSF Unblocks Nine Censored News Sites

Posted March 12th, 2015 at 12:33 pm (UTC+0)
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An internet cable is seen at a server room in this picture illustration taken in Warsaw January 24, 2012. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

An internet cable is seen at a server room in this picture illustration taken in Warsaw January 24, 2012. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

In an effort to counter online censorship in 11 countries it labels “Enemies of the Internet,” Reporters Without Borders is unblocking access to nine news websites that have been blocked in their respective countries..

It has done so by mirroring blocked sites – that is, duplicating the censored sites and uploading their contents on internet servers such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google.  Since those sites provide information and services vital to companies and most individuals, blocking access would be costly politically and economically the group said.

“Reporters Without Borders is renting bandwidth for this operation that will gradually be used up as more and more people visit the mirror sites,” the group says on its website.  “We are therefore asking Internet users to help pay for additional bandwidth so that the mirror sites will be available for as long as possible.

“Operation Collateral Freedom” was conceived by GreatFire, an NGO operated by Chinese activists that has already created unblockable mirror sites of Deutsche Welle, Google and China Digital Times. For more great tools and technology to fight censorship, visit GreatFire’s website, or VOA’s own circumvention handbook.

These are the nine sites that RSF has mirrored:

  1. Grani.ru, blocked in Russia, is now available at https://gr1.global.ssl.fastly.net/
  2. Fergananews.com blocked in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, is now available at https://fg1.global.ssl.fastly.net/
  3. The Tibet Post International, blocked in China, is now available at https://tp1.global.ssl.fastly.net/
  4. Dan Lam Bao, blocked in Vietnam, is now available at https://dlb1.global.ssl.fastly.net/
  5. Mingjing News, blocked in China, is now available at https://mn1.global.ssl.fastly.net/news/main.html
  6. Hablemos Press, blocked in Cuba, is now available at https://hp1.global.ssl.fastly.net/
  7. Gooya News, blocked in Iran, is now available at https://gn1.global.ssl.fastly.net/
  8. Gulf Centre for Human Rights, blocked in United Arab Emirates, is now available at https://gc1.global.ssl.fastly.net/
  9. Bahrain Mirror, blocked in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, is now available at https://bahrainmirror.global.ssl.fastly.net/

To help make freely-reported news and information available in these countries, all Internet users are invited to join in this operation by posting this list on social networks with the #CollateralFreedom hashtag.

The ‘Enemies of the Internet’ whose citizens will now be able to access these news sites are Bahrain, China, Cuba, Iran, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

Bangladeshi-American Blogger Murdered In Dhaka

Posted February 27th, 2015 at 1:36 pm (UTC+0)
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B-yY5CvUsAAwUNL.jpg largeFrom Bangladesh today comes news that prominent writer and blogger Avijit Roy was attacked and killed on a busy sidewalk as he and his wife Rafida Ahmed (seen with him in Twitter photo above) were returning from a Dhaka book fair Thursday night.  She was injured but survived that attack.

A group calling itself Ansar Bangla 7 (below) has claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the Prothom Alo newspaper, and has tweeted that Roy was killed for having spoken out against Islam.

Ansar_Bangla_7_(@AnsarBn_7)_Twitter_-_2015-02-27_10.21.02Late Thursday evening,men–perhaps more–reportedly attacked the couple with large knives, then ran away into the nearby crowd.

Roy, 42, was an athiest who authored  a popular Bengali-language blog, Mukto-mona, or “Free Mind,” in which he discussed issues of religion versus secular humanism.

Roy championed atheism as “a rational concept to oppose any unscientific and irrational belief.” And that’s what hardline Islamist groups have objected to, viewing such comments as attacks on Islam.

 

 

 

“As Roy himself warned, Bangladesh is appeasing the most insidious and violent strains of Islamism, and he new [sic] his own life was under threat. That appeasement of theocratic demands and naked threats must end, now.” – Bob Churchill, IHEU Communications Director, Feb. 27, 2015.

“We cannot know the assailants who carried out tonight’s vicious murder,” said International Humanist and Ethical Union communications director, Bob Churchill.  “But we do know this: Those who have openly made the most serious and credible threats on Roy’s life have been allowed to do so with impunity and now he is dead”

In New York, the Committee to Protect Journalists Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz called on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government to “leave no stone unturned in investigating and prosecuting the attack on Avijit Roy and Rafida Ahmed Bonna.”

“This attack is emblematic of the culture of impunity that pervades Bangladesh, where the lack of accountability in previous attacks on the press continues to spurn a deadly cycle of violence,” Dietz said.

Last year, a Rajshahi University teacher, AKM Shafiul Islam, was stabbed to death allegedly because he opposed the wearing of burqas in the classroom by female students.

In 2013, another atheist blogger, Ahmed Rajib Haider, was murdered, allegedly by a little-known Islamist group called the Ansarullah Bengali Team.

In 2004, Humayun Azad, a prominent writer and teacher at Dhaka University, was seriously injured in an attack when he was returning from the same book fair.

 

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

About

About rePRESSEDed

VOA reporter Cecily Hilleary monitors the state of free expression and free speech around the world.

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