A secularist writer, blogger and founder of the Mukto-Mona (Free Thought) website, Avijit Roy was slain by men with machetes as he and his wife were leaving a book fair near the University of Dhaka on 26 February 2015. The killing was claimed by Ansar al Islam, an Islamist militant group that had already claimed on Facebook that it was responsible for the murder of Rajib Haider, a blogger hacked to death near his Dhaka home in February 2013.
Three other secularist bloggers have been killed in 2015. A month after Roy’s murder, Washiqur Rahman was killed in a similar manner on 30 March. Ananta Bijoy Das was murdered in the northeastern city of Sylhet on 12 May. Intruders armed with machetes hacked Niloy Neel to death in his Dhaka suburb home on 7 August. All four had criticized religious fundamentalism and had advocated tolerance, free speech and freedom of thought in their blogs.
The extraordinarily passive Bangladeshi authorities have taken no protective measures. Instead they often threaten to arrest bloggers for violating article 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act, under which “publishing fake, obscene or defaming information in electronic form” is punishable by seven to 14 years in prison.
For months, Reporters Without Borders has been urging the authorities to allocate resources to the task of bringing the perpetrators and instigators of crimes of violence against journalists to justice. A few alleged Ansar al Islam members have been questioned by the police and charged in the past two months but they have not been tried. Those behind Roy’s murder have still not been caught.