Shahariar Islam Sovon
Thousands of protesters from various political parties took to the streets in several districts, major cities, and capital to demand Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s resignation including a free, fair, and credible national election, ensure freedom of speech, ensure proper power supply, reduction of fuel and essential commodity prices and an end to the crackdown on journalists.
The rallies staged by different political wings including the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) protest against the rising living cost, surging essential commodity prices, fuel prices, economic crisis, power shortage, attack on journalists issue and depreciating national currency.
The BNP Secretary General claims that Hasina’s government has been accused with financial wrongdoing, complicity in political rivals’ disappearances, and extrajudicial killings.
“We want a democratic system in Bangladesh and a new government that would take power through a free, fair, and participatory election,” Afroza Abbas, BNP leader and wife of the party’s detained central leader Mirza Abbas, told the media.
On July 6, a Deputy Inspector General of police met with other senior police officials in Dhaka and authorized an initiative to gather data on the cases of the leaders and activists from the BNP and another opposition group, the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh.
Since 2013, members of these groups have been accused of significant charges including arson, armed attacks on law enforcement, other subversive actions, and more.
However, according to eight independent organisations on World Press Freedom Day, the rising number of attacks in Bangladesh against journalists and others who use their right to openly criticise governmental policies and practices is concerning.
The attack on eight journalists while they were covering a football game in Dhaka is condemned by both the Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangbadik Forum (BMSF) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
A group of Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) activists from Dhaka University allegedly attacked the journalists during a football game on campus, according to sources.
The widespread suppression of the right to free speech jeopardizes the possibility of a free and fair election in January 2024.
In spite of this, Bangladeshi journalists face the threat of harassment and arrest under the harsh Digital Security Act (DSA).
The government of Bangladesh is allegedly suppressing free speech and media freedom in violation of both Article 19 under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 39 of the constitution of Bangladesh.
A report issued in February by the media organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF) cautioned against an anticipated assault on opposition media.
According to the RSF, Hasina’s administration intends to shut down at least 191 news websites for “conducting activities that spread confusion among the public”.
The study also listed a number of incidents where journalists and other media who were critical of the ruling Awami League party were attacked.
The major opposition party in Bangladesh, the Jatiya Party, organised an extensive rally to denounce the government’s ‘anti-people’ decision to raise petrol prices.
” They will actively oppose the government in the buildup to the next general election but it would be mostly for show as they have no intention to join the anti-government movement which BNP and other opposition parties are currently running.” leading members of Bangladesh Jatiya Party said.
Jamaat-e-Islami party staged a massive rally after a decade in the capital in August which opposed Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan demanding return of the election-time caretaker government system.
Leaders of Ganatantra Mancha, a combine of six political parties and some other opposition political parties, in Jun urged the opposition political parties to wage simultaneous anti-government programmes to compel the Awami League government to resign from power.
However, the high-level US delegation visit, slated for July 11-14, may feature discussions on the upcoming election, human rights, labour, Rohingya and trade issues, according to foreign ministry officials.
Uzra Zeya, under secretary for civilian security, democracy, and human rights, lead the delegation that also includes Donald Lu, US assistant secretary for South and Central Asia Bureau, and Anjali Kaur, USAID deputy assistant administrator.
Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen said, “I have no such knowledge that the delegation’s visit will be specifically to discuss election related issues.
However, US, UK, UN, EU delegates urge free, fair and transparent national elections in Bangladesh and all the leaders of Awami League are assured to hold upcoming elections as per the Bangladesh Constitution.