Shahjahan Bachchu was ambushed late yesterday afternoon in a pharmacy in Munshiganj, a district just to the south of the capital, Dhaka. After a homemade bomb was exploded outside the pharmacy to create a panic, four or five masked gunmen stormed in, pulled Bachchu out, shot him four times and then fled on two motorcycles. He died on the spot.
A keen poet and editor of the weekly Amader Bikrampur as well as a blogger, Bachchu was well known as an outspoken champion of freethinking, especially on religious issues. His defence of religious tolerance and atheism made him a target of Jihadi groups and Muslim fundamentalists.
He had been getting death threats for years from Sunni extremists, which had forced him to often change his place of residence.
“It is freethinking that is against the victim of this latest act of barbarity,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “Shahjahan Bachchu’s name has been added to the already long list of so-called ‘secularist’ journalist and bloggers who have been killed for advocating religious tolerance.
“The culture of impunity surrounding these murders must be brought to a complete end. We call on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government to do everything possible to find the perpetrators and instigators of these crimes. The authorities must also establish a mechanism for protecting bloggers who, like Shahzahan Bachchu, receive death threats.”
Four bloggers known for defending tolerance, free speech and freethinking in their posts – Avijit Roy (the founder of the news website Mukto-Mona), citizen-journalist Washiqur Rahman, freethinker Ananta Bijoy Das and netizen Niloy Neel – were killed in 2015 alone.The young citizen-journalist Nazim Uddin Samad was stabbed and gunned down in April 2016 for defending secularism in his writing.
In all, nearly a dozen bloggers have been killed by Jihadi and fundamentalists groups in Bangladesh in the past decade while many others have fled into exile. The police investigations into these murders have all ground to a halt without any serious arrests being made.
Bangladesh is ranked 146th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.