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Bangladesh “in crisis” on freedom of expression index

The Country Has Seen The Biggest Fall On The Index For Imposing Online Censorship Since 2015 And Is In The Bottom 10 For Internet Legal Regulation And Government Monitoring Of Social Media

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Freedom of expression in Bangladesh is "in crisis", says Article 19, a British human rights organisation in its latest report.

The Global Expression Report 2021 ranked Bangladesh 133th out of 161 countries in terms of freedom of expression. Bangladesh is at the bottom among the South Asian countries.

The country has seen the biggest fall on the index for imposing online censorship since 2015 and is in the bottom 10 for Internet legal regulation and government monitoring of social media, according to the report.

Article 19 gave Bangladesh a score of 12 out of 100, upon evaluation across 25 indicators.

It put Bangladesh in the "in crisis" category for seven years in a row. It is the worst of five categories in the report starting with the category "open".

Bangladesh scored high on several negative indicators. For example, it received 3 out of 3 on restrictions of media freedom and 2 out of 3 on abusive enforcement.

On other indicators like discriminatory measures, derogation of non-derogable rights, limitations on legislature and official disinformation campaigns, Bangladesh scored 0 out of 3.

Denmark topped the freedom of expression index, followed by Switzerland and Norway. North Korea secured its bottom place as usual.

Among South Asian countries, freedom of expression in Afghanistan is better. With a score of 55, it ranked 80th among 161 nations and was categorized as "restricted".

Of other countries, the Maldives is ranked 90th, Nepal 91th, Sri Lanka 99th, Bhutan 112th, Pakistan 115th and India 125th.

The Asia-Pacific region is at its lowest performance in a decade; 85% of the population live in countries labeled as "in crisis" or "highly restricted" after a 39% rise since 2010.

This report measures how free each and every person is to write, to post online, to march, to teach, to access knowledge and information, to share it freely, and to hold those in power to account.

More specifically, it gave an analysis as to how the pandemic was used as an excuse by world leaders to impose restrictions on people's freedom of expression.

"The most common democratic violation in relation to the pandemic was media restrictions. Populist governments have continued to threaten democracy by attacking the free press", reads the report.

"When leaders look to concentrate their power, they typically attack our rights to freedom of expression first. They begin with attacks on the media, then attacking civil society and ultimately destroying the independence of elections."

Globally, two-thirds of the population lives in a country where freedom of expression is highly limited - more than at any time in the last decade, says Article 19.