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Legal restrictions and threat of deadly violence curb artistic freedom in Bangladesh: UPR Report

2 November 2017

The literary and artistic community in Bangladesh face significant restrictions in exercising their right to freedom of expression according to new report.

The literary and artistic community in Bangladesh, including organisers of artistic festivals and filmmakers, face significant restrictions in exercising their right to freedom of expression, despite constitutional protections and Bangladesh’s obligations under international law, according to a new report by Freemuse, Drik, PEN International and PEN Bangladesh submitted to the UN Human Rights Council. Individuals that are members of the opposition, or explicitly critical of the government through their art are hit particularly hard, the report reveals.

The Constitution of Bangladesh recognises the right to freedom of speech and expression, which includes freedom of artistic expression. However, the Constitution itself, as well as many laws and regulations including the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act, the Bangladesh Penal Code and the Anti-Terrorism Act, condition the exercise of this right to the adherence to moral, political and religious codes, not consistent with international law ratified by Bangladesh, is a party.

» Read the full Bangladesh UPR joint stakeholder submission here

The report was filed on 5 October 2017 ahead of Bangladesh’s third cycle Universal Periodic Review – the UN system’s official mechanism for reviewing all member states’ human rights records in cycles of four-and-a-half years. The review will take place in Geneva in May 2018.

Drik Picture Library is an award winning innovative media organization known for its outstanding quality and social commitment. Established in 1989, using the power of the visual medium, its major areas of expertise include advocacy and awareness campaigns, production of communication material, research, and ‘state of the art’ multimedia services and training.

PEN International promotes literature and defends freedom of expression. Through Centres in over 100 countries, PEN operates on five continents. PEN International is a non-political organisation which holds Special Consultative Status at the UN and Associate Status at UNESCO.

PEN Bangladesh, founded in 1972, is formed of a membership of over 100 writers, journalists and academics. The Centre strives to promote the universal mission of PEN International through both public events and advocacy.

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