In Bangladesh there is an increasing number of arbitrary executions. Journalist Abu Sufiyan discusses the killings in his blog for which he is receiving this year's Reporter Without Borders Award.
Despite Bangladesh's basic democracy, an increasing number of arbitrary executions take place there. And state security forces are thought to be responsible.
In his blog Journalist and blogger Abu Sufiyan reports such killings and talks about legal arbitrariness and corruption. He demands authorities create more transparency in his country and that all crimes are dealt with in a court of law.
The NGO Reporters Without Borders has ranked Bangladesh very low in terms of press freedom. Rightly so. Despite Bangladesh's basic democracy, Abu Sufiyan and many other journalists do not feel protected by the system; they do not feel safe working and living in their own country.
For his commitment to exposing these crimes in his blog, Abu Sufiyan was selected to receive the DW blog award - the Reporters Without Borders Award - on June 26 in Bonn, Germany.
The old government's special unit
The war on Islamist terror is a highly sensitive topic in Bangladesh. Islamist groups reject the secular form of government and would rather call out a religious state based on strict Islamic guidelines. They see the split-off from Pakistan in 1971 as a big mistake.
Due to an increase in Islamist terrorist attacks, the government under Prime Minister Khaleda Zia decided in 2004 to create a special task force. During the Bengali New Year, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) was created.
This task force actually managed to arrest or kill multiple high-ranking terrorists and to seize their illegal weapons and equipment.
The dark-clothed special forces are feared and among the Bangladeshi population. They are seen as an all-powerful unit that acts on the perimeters of the rule of law and practices mob justice on suspected criminals. During so-called "encounters" with suspects, people who should be brought before a court of law are often killed.
Such incidents are hotly debated in Bangladesh - however, not in the media. Journalists seem too intimidated to talk about and voice their opinions on these incidents publicly. And even if some few do manage to research the topic and write stories, they often go unpublished.
Journalist Abu Sufiyan also had to live under these conditions. As an investigative journalist, he was quite well known for reporting on multiple cases of extrajudicial executions. He even created a documentary film on the topic. But as soon as the first part was broadcast, the TV station had to cancel the series because of great "pressure from high up."
"When traditional media fails to come through - that's where bloggers can step in and spread the unpleasant truths," says Abu Sufiyan, who steps in and blogs about topics that would otherwise go unreported. Currently he is blogging for Bangladesh's most popular online newspaper, "bdnews24.com," which has a cooperation with DW.
Supporting the media
As a journalist and blogger, Abu Sufiyan is extremely concerned when fellow journalists are killed. When the journalist couple Sagar Sarowar and Mehrun Runi were found dead after being brutally murdered in their apartment in Dhaka this past February, the entire nation was shocked. Despite big promises made by the government, the case has not been resolved. Sagar Sarowar, a former DW employee, had also been an active blogger. Many journalists ask themselves if and when they will meet the same fate.
This murder along with others have brought Bangladeshi journalists and bloggers closer together. "All of us are aware of the danger. But we have to carry on," says Abu Sufiyan.
Abu Sufiyan is happy about the prize, which he has accepted at the Global Media Forum in Bonn, Germany. "It is certainly a great honor to receive such a award. As a blogger, as a journalist and as a citizen of Bangladesh, I appreciate this award very much. All Bangladeshi bloggers and journalists have earned it together."
Watched on the net
Dr.Shaidul Alam, a BOBs juror from Bangladesh, is also passionate about the topic. He was part of a one-of-a-kind initiative created to inform the public about the arbitrary murder of civilians by the security forces.
"What we did was put together a major exhibition looking at the extrajudicial killings and this was a google-earth map (on which we marked where the killings took place) which was backed up by extensive research."
The idea behind it, Alam explains, was to allow ordinary people to come forward with new information on such killings. However, it was not as successful as the program's creators had wished.
"It did not work because ordinary Bangladeshis do not feel confident enough to come online when they can be tracked, when their IP addresses can be mapped and when facebook and YouTube was stopped in Bangladesh and people were arrested, they found themselves vulnerable.“
Author: Sanjiv Burman / sb
Editor: Shamil Shams