Freedom of speech is an concept to express one’s mind publicly without being afraid of anyone or anything without any restriction or limitation. There may be other definations available for freedom of speech, but all the definations will be originated from few fundamental points. Those are –
a. Expressing freely.
b. Without any fear.
d. Woithout any restriction or limitation.
Today I will try to discuss on these points in the environment of Bangladesh. I will be discussing nothing new, everyone knows about it; I will just try to discuss on them to highlight in a structured way with their relationship with political and religious factors in Bangladesh.
If you are in Bangladesh, I don’t have to make you realize that there is no way you can express your mind freely; because you are living within it. I don’t have to tell someone that you are breathing air, because you are living with it. This is also a reason why people are used to it. But I will try to raise some issues to make you understand, if you are not in Bangladesh. In a simple word, you can not express your not only political or religious views freely. Why? We are always scared that our expression or speech may go against government or religious views. Our 99% expressions die down even before we express. Even in 21st century, Bangladeshi people are very much family oriented. Most of the times, people think aobut the consequences for telling the truth which may risk their personal and family in life risk. This is the most important reason why people in Bangladesh don’t speack the truth, rather scared of telling the truth. And unfortunately our so called political and religious leaders are well aware of this weakness of people. Earlier, general public were afraid of these factors and were dependant on opposition political leaders on raising their voice. Funny thing is for last decade, high profile political leaders are harrased for expressing their mind freely as well. There were few incidents when even people from the political parties, who are in power, are also arrested or harrased for their statement.
Religious opposition against expressing freely is firstly generated within the family. If my speech goes against the fundamental faith, then your own family will oppose you saying that even it’s true. There are lots of external religous factors as well. You live in a society where most of the people are muslims and religious. Problem with the muslims that whether they are practicing or non-practicing muslims, they will oppose you. Muslims of Bangladesh are highly brain washed to the fundamentalism that they are blind towards accepting the truth. You will be avoided by your neighbors, if you say anything against their religion. Additional to these factors, some radical religious groups are egarly waiting to target you if you say anything against Islam. Why I am saying only about Islamic groups, because Bangladesh is mainly muslim ruled country. There may be some groups of other religion, but they are not as organized as radical muslim groups. In a word I can say that first and second element of freedom of speech ie, expressing freely without any fear is no where near to Bangladesh.
If we talk about expressing mind publicly without any restriction or limitation, I will straight way inform you that it’s nearly impossible. Now a day, there are only two ways of expressing publicly. One is electronic and print media ie, TV, Newspaper etc. and the other one is internate based media ie, social media, blogs, websites etc. TV, newspapers are highly controlled by the governemnt. If you look into the recent past, you will find that some TV channels and newspapers were closed down by the government. I don’t know any country which media is this much controlled by the government. Government has not only closed down the TV or newspapers, they are even harrasing the owners by filing up case against them. As a result, other TV and newspapers are not in a position to publish or broadcast anything which may go against the government. I had to wait couple of months for publishing an article. There were some indicents that if I sent four articles, just one of my articles were published after eiditing most of the lines. And there were so many articles which were never published. It is really hard to understand, if you don’t face these experiences.
However, there was one way to express mind publicly easily and that was online socal media, blogs and websites. But when present government came into power, they have imposed so many restrictions in the name of ICT Act. People are arrested, harrased for writing online. Websites are blocked. In some cases, people were arrested for expressing their mind in social media like, facebook and blogspot as government does not have control over these websites. Now a days, government has started cyber war against online activists. Law enforcement agency’s special departments monitor this. Online bloggers or writers are not threatening others’ life, they are only expressing their view. But still they are arrested and harrased. There are so many murderers roaming around freely without fear of being arrested, instead people are arrested and harrased for writing. What will happen to the society like this?
People are now scared like never before by the radical religious groups for writing online in Bangladesh. For bloggers, Bangladesh is not a safe place. If nothing is done on this then these radical Islamic groups will operate publicly and writers will have to express their mind hiding.
The main problem is within our mindset. General public of Bangladesh have become habituated with this and seems like they don’t care about this. They don’t feel anything. As a result government and religious groups are taking the chance and utilizing this opportunity. The whole world is with freedom of speech and Bangladesh is just on the other side of the coin. I feel ashamed sometimes, when I think that I am a citizen of this country.