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The Awami League’s return to power in January 2009 brought a calmer environment for the media than under the previous, military-backed interim government. At Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s behest, the authorities freed detained journalists and the intensity of harassment by the military eased off.
But this fragile and partial return to normality was threatened by a series of government decisions that trampled on media freedom. An exhibition in Dhaka entitled Crossfire, which was organized by the photojournalist Shahidul Alam and showed photos of extrajudicial executions by members of the Rapid Action Battalion, was closed by the Dhaka police on 22 March 2010. The Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission banned Facebook during one week in May 2010 on religious grounds. The closures of Channel 1 TV and the opposition daily Amar Desh and the murder of Fateh Osmani, the magazine Shaptahik 2000’s correspondent in the northeastern city of Sylhet, confirmed the decline in freedom of information in 2010.
Nowadays, the main problems for the media result from the political tension between members and supporters of the opposition parties on the one hand, and those of the ruling Awami League on the other. The situation is especially critical in certain regions where the correspondents of many national media are often the victims of abuses by Awami League members, officials, criminal groups and sometimes police officers. No fewer than 10 journalists were targeted by activists during demonstrations by the leading opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, in June and July 2011. A bomb was thrown at the home of Mashiyul Haque, the correspondent of the daily Dainik Samakal and president of the Kalia Press Club, in the southwestern locality of Kalabaria, on 14 July 2011.
Bangladesh has half a dozen TV stations, a similar number of privately-owned radio stations, and scores of Bangla and several English-language dailies. This media diversity does not however compensate for the many repressive laws. Journalists can be jailed on charges of defamation or sedition. The security services continue to monitor the phone calls and emails of dozens of journalists. International media correspondents are also targeted.
Updated in October 2011
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