Disappearance of an academic, a journalist and a former diplomat in Bangladesh has created a culture of fear in an election year, reports Hong Kong-based Asia Times.
It says the state is the prime suspect in these ‘enforced disappearances’.
“Media outlets who report on the regular abduction of political dissidents or critics in Bangladesh also face retaliation, amid claims that the government pressures companies not to advertise with them,” writes the Times.
It says while enforced or involuntary disappearance is considered a “heinous violation of human rights and an international crime” by the United Nations, it is not an unusual occurrence in Bangladesh.
Apart from cases of academic Mubashar Hasan, journalist Utpal Das, and former diplomat Maroof Zaman, 15 other alleged abductions were reported over the last six months, although most of these people later turned up, according to the report.
“Enforced disappearances instill a great fear and a chilling effect,” political columnist Afsan Chowdhury was quoted to have said.
The report also quoted history professor Syedd Anwar Hussain as saying that most of the enforced disappearances are suspected to be state-sponsored and the government naturally “doesn’t want these to be reported”.
“Not surprisingly,” the report said, “the country’s government denies any role in media censorship.”
It referred to information minister Hasanul Haq Inu who said “the country’s media enjoys press freedom and the government does not interfere.”
However, Bangladesh was ranked 146 in the World Press Freedom Index in 2017, the report pointed out.
Meenakhsi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, told Asia Times that the Bangladeshi government “appears unwilling to address the problem of enforced disappearances, often engaging in outright denial.”