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Creating spaces for discussion and debate

  • Published at 01:49 pm November 9th, 2018

The last thing we wish to see is the space for free expression shrink

How safe is freedom of speech in Bangladesh?

While the government has assured the journalistic community that the newly passed Digital Security Act will not be used to clamp down upon freedom of the press, it is a fact that serious concerns remain about how much space there is really is for discussion and debate.

The more draconian parts of this law have been protested strongly by the Editors’ Council, who even at one point formed a human chain because they were not being heard -- as we have seen in the past, writers and journalists have often paid a steep price for what they have said or written and, without a change to the laws, assurances of free speech seem hollow.

Today, the final day of the Dhaka Lit Fest is on at full swing in Bangla Academy, of which this newspaper is title sponsor, and at this world-class festival, writers, poets, journalists, actors, and artistes from all over the world have come together to engage in lively debate on all kinds of topics, ranging from fake news, to the Rohingya refugee crisis, to women and wit.

This wonderful event would not be possible without the support of the Bangladeshi government, and this highlights our country’s commitment to upholding the rich tradition of respecting and upholding multiple points of view.

We would like to take these values forward, for these bring out the best in Bangladesh, and a revision of recent laws would help carry the vision of a successful reach fruition. 

The last thing we wish to see is the space for free expression -- and the space for literary festivals or cultural festivals of all kinds -- shrink, and for writers and journalists to live in fear of repercussions for things they may write, or say.

To that end, review and revision of our existing laws would go a long way towards guaranteeing the freedoms we hold so dear.