Insecure Human Rights Defenders in Bangladesh lack proper law, effective mechanism for protection

Most of the rural human rights defenders in Bangladesh are unprotected and their rights are not recognised at all. In their pursuit of defending human rights of the vulnerable, they themselves are victimised quite often.

The United Nations General Assembly in 1999 had adopted a resolution to protect human rights defenders against the backdrop of a similar global scenario. That was a big push for the rights-based groups and individual.  The UN resolution entitled, “Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms” as an international instrument was expected to be followed by the UN member states.  Since then, many countries promulgated their specific law to protect defenders’ rights. With a rapid increase in rights violation against human rights defenders and common people where women and girls are the most affected in particular, Bangladesh is yet to take any concrete measure in the sequel to the resolution.

According to a recent assessment study entitled ‘An Assessment to Identify Gaps in Capacity of Rural Women Human Rights Defenders in Defending Rural Women’s and Girl’s Rights,’ conducted by  the News Network , the defenders, particularly in remote districts are facing various kinds of challenges from different corners and groups, including vested quarters, local administration, public representatives, political party activists and from the law and order enforcement agencies. The assessment has identified the nature of challenges that include physical attack, harassment and threats to life. In many instances, the rights defenders had to flee along with family members and escape to a safer place for life.  The assessment report, under the ‘Supporting Human Rights Defenders Working for Women’s and Girls’ Rights in Bangladesh’ project supported by European Union,  also observed that the situation of insecurity of rural defenders was much worse than those living in the cities.

The assessment team met with four categories of most potential rural defenders such as women human rights defenders, journalists, leaders of civil society and religious leaders in eight districts:  Dinajpur, Jashore, Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari, Rajshahi, Rangpur and Satkhira.

The objectives of the assessment were to understand existing capacity of Women Human Rights Defenders and/or Human Rights Defenders in case of an investigation, reporting and organising advocacy and lobbying on the issues with the policy actors.

About 69 percent of the defenders surveyed have identified problems and barriers they faced mostly when they have performed their role in protecting women and girl’s rights, the report said.

The defenders identify several risks they are facing for working on women rights, those are: Social Barriers (39%), lack of legal and other supports (46%), physical and mental attack (23%), non-cooperation (31%), religious barriers (31%) and misbehaviour (15%). In addition to those, they also face risks from the organisational perspective such as “risk of reduced funding opportunity, non-cooperation, false cases, political harassment, propaganda against organisations, threats and financial problem and lack of networking inside and outside the country with the Human Right Organisations”. They have also identified a number of agencies and groups of people posing risks for them that include: local leaders and activists of political parties, public representatives, parliament members, law enforcing agencies and Border Guard Bangladesh, and a section of the government officials.

There are other risk factors as well because most rural human right defenders do not have formal training and education. They do not have any training on security planning, mitigation mechanism to counter institutional harassment and dealing with legal issues.

In a bid to overcome the situation, the assessment study has recommended for several initiatives including: to improve the professional ability of the defenders and raise their understanding on risk analysis, security planning, advocacy and lobby, and to build-up an effective nationwide defenders’ network to raise voice and protect women and girls’ rights.

A European Union Funded New Project Launch today

From left Ms. Erika Hasznos, First Secretary, Ms. Laila Jasmin Banu, Programme Manager-Governance and Human Rights, Ms. Audrey Maillot, Team Leader-Governance of the Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh, Editor of News Network Mr. Shahiduzzaman and senior journalists and media development expert Mr. Shamsuddin Ahmed are seen in the picture.

Dhaka, 15 May 2018 (News Network): –

A three-year long European Union funded new project, ‘Supporting Human Rights Defenders Working for Women’s and Girls’ Rights in Bangladesh’ launch today. It’s a first of its kind project to improve the professional ability of human rights defenders, including journalists, representative of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and NGOS, and religious leaders, aims to protect and promote women’s and girls’ rights in Bangladesh. News Network in cooperation with Udayankur Seba Sangstha (USS), a non-government organisation is implementing the project in country’s 8 districts (Jessore, Satkhira, Nilphamari, Lalmonirhat, Rangpur, Dinajpur and Kurigramme). Read More “A European Union Funded New Project Launch today”

European Union funded fresh project launched in Bangladesh

As the chair of the project launching ceremony Ms. Audrey Maillot, Team Leader-Governance of the Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh delivering her speeches to audience. On the dais from left Ms. Erika Hasznos, First Secretary and Ms. Laila Jasmin Banu, Programme Manager-Governance and Human Rights of the Delegation of the European Union, Editor of News Network Mr. Shahiduzzaman and senior journalists and media development expert Mr. Shamsuddin Ahmed are also seen in the picture.

A three-year-long European Union funded new project, ‘Supporting Human Rights Defenders Working for Women’s and Girls’ Rights in Bangladesh’ has launched in the city on 15 May 2018. It’s a first of its kind project to improve the professional ability of human rights defenders, including journalists, members of Civil Society Organisations and NGOS, and religious leaders, aims to protect and promote women’s girls’ rights in Bangladesh.

News Network in cooperation with Udayankur Seba Sangstha (USS) is implementing the project in country’s eight districts — Jessore, Satkhira, Nilphamari, Lalmonirhat, Rangpur, Dinajpur and Kurigram.

The launching ceremony of the project held this morning at CIRDAP Auditorium, Dhaka was chaired by Ms. Audrey Maillot, Team Leader-Governance of the Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh. Mr. Shahiduzzaman, Editor of News Network presented the project and moderated the event.
Ms. Ayesha Khanum, President of Bangladesh Mohila Parisad and Mr. Shamsuddin Ahmed, a senior journalists and media development experts were the guest of honors. Ms. Erika Hasznos, First Secretary (Political) and Ms. Laila Jasmin Banu, Programme Manager-Governance and Human Rights of Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh and Mr. Alauddin Ali, Executive Director of (USS) also present in the occasion. Audrey Maillot said, ‘News Network has been awarded the project under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). ….EIDHR is a European instrument that aims to promote democracy and human rights worldwide through support to civil society initiative’.

‘The project is expected to establish integrated protection systems for rural human rights defenders that will facilitate their access to service like psycho-social, medical and legal support’, she said.

The speakers of the occasion appreciate the project initiative. They said, country’s most women are somehow victim of violence. Their rights are often violated in various ways. Particularly in rural areas women’s accesses to justice and resources are limited. Besides, the human rights defenders are not well organised and less capacity to protect women rights. In such situation, the project will set an example and trend to encourage and improve the ability of human rights defenders to play their active role to promote women’s and girls’ rights, they hoped.

The project will continue till 2020.

12 May

Programme for Supporting Journalists to Promote Freedom of Religion

News Network with assistance from the High Commission of Canada/Canada Fund to Bangladesh has undertaken a programme to support local journalists to promote freedom of religion and peaceful coexistence of all religious people in Bangladesh. The project, ‘Programme for Supporting Journalists to Promote Freedom of Religion,’ will cover Jessore, Khulna and Rangpur districts of the country.

The initiative is aimed at sensitising and improving the professional ability of journalists and arranging interactive meetings with media gatekeepers of local newspapers to discuss the issues and publish items on freedom of religion and human rights.

It’s a trend-setting project and first of its kind in Bangladesh.The project will have multiple impacts and results. Pressure groups and organisations involved in defending human rights and advocacy will get benefit of its outputs. Besides the project is potential to replicate or expand in other parts of the country or other developing countries, where freedom of religion often faces challenges.

Click here to download the brochure

Programme for Supporting Human Rights Defenders Working for Women’s and Girls’ Rights in Bangladesh

The Government of Bangladesh ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discriminations against Women and passed the Women Development Policy 2011 to ensure strong protection for women and girls’ rights. Yet, women and girls in Bangladesh are deprived of their Constitutional rights in accessing justice and gender-based violence is a very common phenomenon.

Unacceptable social attitude among a section of the society and officials towards women and girls, weak enforcement of women-friendly laws and regulations, slow but insufficient judicial protection, inadequate social protest and protection, poor family environment, poor and inadequate intervention from human rights defenders (HRDs) and weak voice of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) are the major impediments in ensuring women’s and girls’ rights.

The Programme for Supporting Human Rights Defenders Working for Women’s and Girls’ Rights in Bangladesh’ is a three-year project started its activities in January 2018. It is funded by the European Union and implemented by the News Network in partnership with Udayankur Seba Sangstha (USS) in the rural areas of eight districts along the Indo-Bangla international border namely Satkhira, Jessore, Rajshahi, Niphamari, Rangpur, Dinajpur, Lalmonirhat and Kurigram.

Objectives: The overall objective of the action is to provide support to Women Human Rights Defenders and/or Human Rights Defenders (W/HRDs) working for women’s and girls’ rights in Bangladesh, which is specifically address to;

  • To recognise and promote the role of WHRDs in the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms and to protect them addressing the challenges, risks and threats that they may face;
  • To support and protect WHRDs at risk due to their work for the promotion and protection of the full enjoyment of women’s and girls’ rights;

Targeted beneficiaries:

Media professionals of print, electronic and social medias including potential young women journalists and rural media gatekeepers-editors, news editors and executive editors, rural journalists and creative women journalists;

Rural civil society organisations’ leaders, both male and female; and rural religious leaders who are working to promote women’s and girls’ rights;

15 Jun

Awareness, Advocacy and Action: Promoting the Safety of Journalists in Bangladesh

Supported by UNESCO

The media in Bangladesh is aggressive and vibrant. Journalists often play a bold role in exposing corruption and wrong-doings in the society. Their brave work earns them public admiration, but it also exposes them to threats on their life, harassment and insecurity.  Safety of journalists has become a concern in the country. Incidents of attacks on journalists are rising.

According to media rights groups at least 30 journalists and bloggers have been killed in such attacks since the country’s independence in 1971. In most cases killers and attackers went unpunished. Even in most cases the motive of killing and attacks was not clear.

The violence against journalists and media has increased globally.  International media monitoring organisation Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has identified 20 deadliest countries for journalists.  Bangladesh is one of these countries, where freedom of press and freedom of expression is under serious threat. Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) notes the ‘dangerous situation’ for journalists in Bangladesh, ranking the country 146th among 180 countries in its Press Freedom Index 2017.

UNESCO released “New Fronts, Brave Voices: Press Freedom in South Asia 2016-17” on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2017. The report prepared by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) documents the “deteriorating press freedom situation, media rights issues, and national and regional activities to empower journalists to confront the challenges relating to press freedom of South Asia over the past year”.

Across South Asia, journalism has always been a tough profession. Its diverse terrain for media workers is ever challenged by the complex socio-cultural and political dynamic that also weaves it together. Out in the field, in local and regional beats as well as on high-profile political trails, journalists and media workers are too often exposed to the dangers this volatile mix presents. As the numbers of incidents recorded by the IFJ and its affiliates show, they are exposed to threats, violence or intimidation in a bid to silence. For too many, it takes the highest price – life.

Almost 90% of the victims in 2014 – 2015 were local journalists, confirming a trend observed throughout the last decade.

To face the challenges against press freedom and freedom of expression and defend those News Network, with the support of UNESCO, has undertaken the project for safety of journalists aiming to make them aware about the safety measures and also ensure a constructive engagement of concerned stakeholders and people_ individuals or organizations _ involved in advocacy to create a safe field for journalists and media houses.

Development objectives

  • To strengthen the environment for press freedom, journalistic safety and/or self-regulation, for on-line and/or off-line media, through favorable policies and/or practices.
  • To promote good governance and transparency by developing pluralistic media institutions, including community media, and/or by building media professional capacities.

The project will give focus to (i) Build awareness of safety measures when reporting from danger zones; (ii) Analyse cases of violence against journalists to examine how they might have been avoided; (iii) Educate journalists about the risks of investigative journalism and political reporting; (iv) Educate journalists about existing resources in Bangladesh for journalists facing hostility; (v) Train journalists to report on crimes against journalists. The initiative shall also establish a peer network for monitoring crimes against journalists and advocating journalists’ safety in Bangladesh.

News Network believes that the safety of journalists must be addressed both as a human rights issue in itself and as a foundation for press freedom. The journalists who will participate in this programme will continue the initiative as part of their professional and social responsibility. They will share their learning with their colleagues and friends within their organizations and outside. The peer network / advocacy group is expected to monitor and promote the safety of journalists well beyond the project period.

Data journalism training for media organizations in ASEAN countries

Capture-6The aim of this call for applications is to select 12 media organizations from ASEAN countries, and for each of them, support the realization of a data-driven project (article/data story, data visualization or other interactive), through a workshop and training programme taking place between May and October 2017. After the end of this programme, you must have set up at least one digital project, attract new public (widen the target audience) with data driven articles and increase your audience using data visualization. Read More “Data journalism training for media organizations in ASEAN countries”

Hasselblad’s Masters 2018 Competition Open for Entries

Capture-5Photographers across the globe are invited to submit three images that best demonstrate their photographic ability in 11 categories,
for the chance to be named a Hasselblad Master. The Hasselblad Masters is one of the world’s most prestigious professional photographic
competitions and gives acclaimed professionals, as well as aspiring newcomers, the chance to make their mark in the world of
high-end photography.


The winners will not only receive the coveted accolade but will take home a state of the art medium format Hasselblad camera and have
their work published in the Hasselblad Masters commemorative book, to be launched in 2018.

Open for entries 24th January – 10th June 2017.

Read the full details on Masters 2018 Rules & Regulations

International Citizen Media Award 2017

Capture-4The topic of the 2017 Citizen Media Award was chosen parallel to the slogan of the then just mentioned upcoming year. Citizen media make people from all over the world more sensitive for a global association and an active engagement. With the announcement and choice of topic the supporters and sponsors of the Award want to inspire citizens to produce and broadcast TV and radio products concerning the topic “Cultural Heritage”.

Thereby, the focus is on the topic, the quality of the medial implementation, the authenticity, the pertinence of research and the originality. The characteristics of the productions get adequate consideration by the jury.

The winners of the International Citizen Media Award will be awarded on Saturday the 6th May 2017 in the Citizen Media Centre Bennohaus (Münster, Germany). The award show will take place in the scope of this event. Private producers of non-commercial audiovisual products have the chance to send in their submissions in the categories video and audio until the 28th February 2017.

More to click: Citizen Media Award

12 Feb

Knight Science Journalism Fellowship

Capture-3 Knight Science Journalism Fellowship program in 2016-17 will open on January 1 and we welcome science journalists from around the world to apply for this unique and career-enhancing opportunity.

The Knight Science Journalism (KSJ) program, founded at MIT in 1982 with a generous endowment from the James S. and John L. Knight Foundation, has hosted more than outstanding 300 mid-career journalists, specializing in coverage of science, medicine, technology, and the environment, since its inception. Fellows receive a $70,000 stipend, spend an academic year in Cambridge, Massachusetts, studying at both MIT and Harvard University, and enjoy a rich offering of science seminars, training workshops and field trips offered by KSJ.

Apply anytime from January 1-February 29, 2016 

More to click: Knight Science Journalism Fellowship