The Ekushey Book Fair :A Vehicle of Harsh Censorship

The Ekushey Book Fair is the single most important literary event in Bangladeshi culture that has a proud history going back to the Bangla language movement of 1952. The book fair had been the main congregation of authors and readers in Bangladesh, and a festival that cherished freedom of expression and diversity of opinion. However, during the recent years, the reputation of the book fair as an open literary public sphere suffered, instead of promoting free expression it has become a vehicle of harsh censorship. The latest victim was prominent Bangladeshi publication house ‘Adarsha’. Adarsha is a prominent Bangladesh publishing house which participated in The Hague Freedom Book Fair since 2017.

The reputation of the Ekushey Book Fair is on a downward spiral since 2015, when prominent author Avijit Roy was murdered just in front of the Book fair. Later that year both of his publishers were attacked. One of them, Faisal Arefin Dipan, died while Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury survived and had to leave the country. Instead of preserving the work of Avijit Roy, Bangla academy remained silent as the Ekushey Book Fair of 2016 was absent of Roy’s book. Thus the murderers of Avijit succeeded in eradicating not only his physical presence but also his works from the book fair. This was the primary reason behind the inception of The Hague Freedom Book Fair, to present Avijit’s book during the month of his favorite literary event, which opposes the crippling censorship and suppression of freedom of expression not only in Bangladesh but in countries with a similar situation.

During the last few years, we have witnessed and condemned a series of bans imposed by the Bangla Academy on books and publications. Coupled with the ongoing threats of violence against many Bangladeshi authors and the repressive censorship laws and bans. The Ekushey Book Fair Committee itself have turned the book fair in to a vehicle of repression. This year they are barring Adarsha Publication from the book fair which had been a part of this event for many years. While Bangla Academy did not give an official cause behind this ban, the “unofficial” cause cited was that the publisher Mahbubur Rahman wrote something critical against the attack on students protesting for road safety by some goons known to be part of the government affiliated student organization. It is difficult to comprehend how a social network post critical against an attack on high school student can be the cause of a publication house getting banned from a Book Fair. The supposed link between these two events, and the very purpose of the Ekushey Book Fair Committee at this moment is beyond our comprehension. We profusely condemned this decision and urge Bangla Academy to reconsider its decision and let Adarsha to participate in the book fair.

 

 

 

 

 

Sudanese Media Under Al-Bashir’s Turmoil

By: Khalid Abdallah

It is a turning point in Sudan history, as the country enters the third week of mass demonstrations demanding that president Omar Al-Bashir’s regime steps down. The government tough procedures against media outlets and the press have been the main target of the government’s security apparatus; ranging from censorship to confiscations and prohibiting the journalists from writing.

A series of failure in policies for nearly thirty years have brought the country to the brink of collapse. The devaluation of Sudan’s currency, lack of bread, shortages of fuels and medicines are economically and politically related. However, the regime is taking many security steps against the media to control the crisis rather than dealing with the main problem, as a result a sharp censorship on newspapers was reinforced since 23th December, ahead of a mass demonstration on 25th December organized by Sudan Professionals Association. Security personnel would proof-read all newspapers before being published daily, taking out whatever items criticize the authorities. They also confiscated newspapers after being printed if they contained any critical remarks, on 1st January, 2019 – The Newspaper ( Al-Garida) was confiscated to repress independent coverage.
The social media platforms such as the Facebook and WhatsApp, have been shut down across the country since 20th December, after the starting day of the demonstrations. Activists were able to use VPN settings as an alternative outlet to keep publishing the news of the mass revolt.
On 27th December in the second week of the demonstration the Sudan Journalists Network announced a strike for three days based on security heavy hands on press. Following the attack on Al-Sudany newspaper whereby live ammunitions and sticks were used. Yasir Abdallah, the Editorial manager was injured. Many other journalists were arrested during the first week, some were taken to custody and released the same day.
In the same trend many regional and international correspondents were forbidden from covering the demonstrations, Yousra Elbagir the CNN correspondent was beaten and arrested by security individuals on 31st December demonstration as she twitted on her profile on Twitter. Another incident that transpired was Saad al-din Ibrahim, Alrabia TV correspondent was investigated by authority for covering the demonstration.
Locally, Sudanese Journalists Network emphasized that three journalists have been arrested recently, Kamal Krar, Fisal Mohammed Salih (released later on) and Gorashy Awad, related to the current events in Sudan. Other journalists have been prohibited from writing their daily columns among them Shameel Alnor and Mohammed Abdulmajed.
The member of the network Nasraldeen Altayeb stated that the freedom of press is facing gross violations by the government, he further explains cameras are not allowed on the streets and the government’s officials refuse to give any comments regarding the current situation on the ground.
The Sudanese government severe campaign against the press is intending to eradicate the current situation through security measures, 39 people have been killed according to Amnesty International but many activists on the ground estimate the number to be higher. This approach will not solve the issue rather it may lead to further escalation in a country that faces many unrests in Darfur, South Kordofan and The Blue Nile region.