The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns two separate attacks in Dhaka on Saturday that, according to reports, killed and injured, respectively, two publishers who had produced books by the murdered Bangladeshi-American publisher Avijit Roy. Two writers were also injured in one of the attacks.
Faisal Arefin Dipan, who published secular books, was stabbed to death at the offices of Jagriti Publications by a group of men who then fled, according to news reports. An autopsy showed the publisher’s body had multiple stab wounds, according to reports. Dipan’s company published The Virus of Faith, by the blogger Roy, who received death threats after the book was published, according to reports. Roy, who was hacked to death in Dhaka in February, is one of four bloggers murdered in Bangladesh this year, according to CPJ research.
Dipan’s father, Abul Kashem Fazlul Haq, told journalists he suspected his son was targeted for publishing Roy’s books, news reports said.
Also on Saturday, unidentified assailants stormed the Dhaka offices of Shuddhashar publishing house and held two men at gunpoint while other assailants attacked the publisher, Ahmed Rahim Tutul, and the writers, Ranadeep Basu and Tareque Rahim, police and reports said. It was not clear from reports how many attackers were involved. The assailants locked the doors of the office behind them after exiting, police said. Tutul and the writers are recovering in hospital, according to reports. Basu writes a blog and has published commentaries on Mukto-Mona (Free Mind), the blog founded by Roy, reports said. Shuddhashar had also published books written by Roy, according to reports.
Before the attack, Tutul received threatening messages via phone, according to reports.
“The extreme violence against independent voices in Bangladesh has extended to those who give these voices a platform,” said CPJ Asia Program Research Associate Sumit Galhotra. “We call on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to take a clear, bold stance against the rising tide of extremism in the country and to bring the perpetrators behind these attacks to justice.”
Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent claimed responsibility on social media for both attacks, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors terrorist activity worldwide. One of the claims which has been viewed by CPJ and which was posted alongside a tweet by the group, said Dipan and Tutul were “worse than the writers of such books, as they helped propagate these books and paid the blasphemers handsome amounts of money for writing them. These secular and atheist publishers waged war against the religion of Islam in every possible ways. One of them also published books in support of homosexuality.” Bangladeshi police said they were investigating the credibility of the claims.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s administration claims the violence in Bangladesh in recent weeks emanates from political opposition groups in the country, according to news reports.
In a separate case, on October 19, several media outlets including the BDNews24news website and The Dhaka Tribune received email threats purportedly sent by the militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team, according to reports. The messages, which warned of “severe action” and made death threats against bloggers in Bangladesh and abroad, ordered the news outlets to fire female employees, to not report critically on “jihadi activities,” and reiterated warnings to bloggers writing about religion, according to news reports.
Bangladesh ranked 12th on CPJ’s 2015 Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are murdered and their killers go unpunished. A wave of violence against bloggers has landed Bangladesh back onto the index for the first time since 2011.