ARTICLE 19 has launched a twelve-point Charter of Rights for the Protection of Online Expression in Bangladesh. The Charter demands that laws and any restrictions in relation to freedom on the internet should comply with international standards.
On 3 July, Professor Ajoy Roy, physicist and father of the slain blogger Abhijit Roy released the Charter at an ARTICLE 19 organised event at the BRAC Inn Center, Dhaka.
Launching the Charter, Professor Roy said that:
“The Charter will act as a safeguard for the protection of bloggers, citizen journalists, and all those who express their views and opinions online; I hope the Government will take it into cognizance for upholding online freedom of expression.”
The event was attended by over a hundred bloggers, moderators, online activists, media and representatives of civil society. Speakers included Tahmina Rahman, Director of ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh and South Asia, Adrian Jones, head of political section of the British High Commission in Bangladesh, and bloggers Ireen Sultana and Fatema Abedin Nazla. The Charter was read out by two bloggers, Neel Sadhu and Tanzima Akhter Sumi.
Tahmina Rahman, Director for Bangladesh and South Asia commented: “We call on State authorities to guarantee the safety of bloggers including taking reasonable steps to protect them when they know or ought to know of the existence of a real and immediate risk to the life of an identified blogger.”
The Charter has been one of the outcomes of a year-long engagement with bloggers and online activists as part of an ARTICLE 19 initiative in Bangladesh. The initiative, supported by the British High Commission and UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, is part of a coordinated response to the tragic murders of Abhijit Roy and others in Bangladesh – killed for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
The Charter highlights rights for bloggers including protection from violence and harassment, non-disclosure of sources, and right to refuse to register with government or any other oversight body. It encourages bloggers to voluntarily develop codes of conduct, or to abide by those formulated by traditional media.
Speaking at the launch, Adrian Jones commented:
“The launch today of a twelve-point Charter of Rights for the Protection of Online Expression in Bangladesh rightly demands that laws and any restrictions in relation to freedom on the internet should comply with international standards. I hope that the Charter can provide a stepping stone to creating a more secure and robust environment for bloggers and others who express themselves online.”