Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns the murder of an outspoken anti-Islamist blogger, Ahmed Rajib Haider, who was hacked to death in the capital, Dhaka, on 15 February.
“We pay tribute to Haider’s fight for freedom of information and we offer our condolences to his family and colleagues,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Such horrible murders should not go unpunished and we urge the Bangladeshi authorities to use all the resources available to them to identify the perpetrators and instigators and bring them to justice without delay.”
Police found Haider’s body near his home in Palashnagar, a residential district of Dhaka, on the evening of 15 February. Ibad Ali, a policeman at the scene, said his body bore the marks of machete wounds.
A 30-year-old architect and member of the Shahbagh activist network, Haider was well known for criticizing Islamic fundamentalism under the blog name of Thaba Baba on Somewhereinblog.net.
He had been covering the street demonstrations being held since 5 February to demand trials and the severest penalties for Islamist leaders guilty of war crimes during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence against Pakistan.
Shortly before the news of Haider’s death, the demonstrators had decided to limit their presence on the streets to seven hours a day. After his death was reported, they rescinded this decision and announced their intention to stay on the streets permanently.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina offered her condolences to Haider’s family on 16 February, when it was announced that responsibility for the investigation had been transferred from the Pallabi neighbourhood police station to the department of investigations. The police said they had so far questioned eight people but did not identify them.
In the Dhaka district of Kapasia, the ruling Awami League declared two days of mourning, calling for black badges to be worn and for black flags to be hung in all commercial establishments.
Flags were flown at half-mast over all the schools in the district yesterday, while students sang the national anthem in support of the Shahbagh protesters. The protesters brandished black flags at 11 a.m. today and observed a minute’s silence.
Violence against news providers is on the increase in Bangladesh and another blogger, Asif Mohiuddin, was badly injured in an attack in Dhaka on 14 January.
A total of four journalists were killed in Bangladesh in 2012, making it the world’s sixth deadliest country for media personnel. Bangladesh is ranked 144th out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.