The Social Progress Index for the year 2014 termed Bangladesh as a ‘’Development Surprise’’ in the SAARC region indicating successes in child mortality, women’s rights and gender parity in secondary school enrolment. Other successes include over 119 million people coming under mobile network coverage constituting 75% of the population including 48.4 million using the internet.
However the 10th parliamentary elections for the country were held on 5 January 2014 against the backdrop of the opposition alliance’s boycott and blockades amidst a whirl of apprehensions, tension and violence. The Awami League (AL) won 233 seats out of the 300 of which in 154 of them there was no opposition candidate.
This continued to plague the government with demands from the oppositions calling for re-elections throughout the year with a political impasse that has remained unresolved. Infightings amongst different groups of the Chatra League, the student wing of the ruling party increased with reports of over 250 factional clashes in the first half of the year in various parts of the country.
The year is also marked with a series of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances as many as 54 cases in the first three month of the year alone. Civil society organisations remained deeply concerned at the lack of protection provided by authorities for activists and journalists. The Parliament enacted the Journalist Welfare Trust Act, 2014 welcomed by journalists and media workers. Approvals for a further number of eight TV channels were given by the government. The government approved the much critiqued Foreign Contributions (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act 2014 largely seen as being restrictive to civil society space. On 4 August, 2014 approval was also given to the National Broadcasting Policy, calling for the establishment of an independent broadcasting commission.
Read the full report on Freedom of Expression in Bangladesh below.