Xulhaz Mannan, editor of Roopbaan, the country’s first LGBT magazine, has been murdered in the Kalabagan area of Dhaka, Bangladesh. A friend and colleague of Mannan, Tanay Mojumdar, was also killed in the attack, and a third was injured.
“This is an attack against the LGBT community and their right to freedom of expression and access to information,” said Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19. “By targeting one of the few platforms for LGBT voices in the country, those behind the murders of Mannan and Mojumdar are seeking to silence and marginalise a whole community; this is not acceptable.”
“Unfortunately this is the latest in a string of brutal attacks targeting free-thinkers and communicators, including bloggers, journalists and academics. The government has failed to give a sufficiently strong public reaction against these murders and in defence of free expression for all people. A prevailing state of impunity only emboldens violent actors to continue this brutal campaign to silence independent voices.
“This cycle of violence must end – the government must unequivocally condemn these murders at the highest level, and publicly commit to prompt, effective and impartial investigations and prosecutions to ensure perpetrators are held to account,” said Hughes.
The murders of Mannan and Mojumdar are the third and fourth in recent weeks targeting free-thinkers and critical voices in Bangladesh. It follows the murder two days ago of Rezaul Karim Siddique, an English professor, and Nazimuddin Samad, a blogger and law student, earlier this month.
In 2015, four bloggers were murdered in Bangladesh: Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman Babu, Ananta Bijoy Das and Niloy Chakrabarti. These took place on 26 February, 30 March, 12 May and 7 August respectively. All murders followed the circulation of three “hit-lists” reportedly written by Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), an Islamic Militant Group.
ARTICLE 19 has criticised the authorities in Bangladesh for failing to sufficiently and unequivocally condemn attacks and murders against communicators in the country, and for severe delays in concluding investigations and holding to account perpetrators.
We have recommended that the government take reasonable steps to protect communicators where real and immediate threats to their safety are known. A specific mechanism to provide protection and to investigate these attacks on freedom of expression should also be established.