Reporters Without Borders is appalled to learn that Niloy Neel, a secularist blogger and activist who had been threatened by Islamist militants, was hacked to death today in his Dhaka home by five intruders armed with machetes. He is the fourth blogger to be murdered in Bangladesh since the start of the year.
Niloy Neel's body was found with the head and hands severed. His wife was at home at the time but was confined to another room while the murder took place. A friend of Neel’s who was visiting was also removed to another part of the house by the killers. Neel, whose real name was Niloy Chkrabarti, was on a hit-list of bloggers that a Bangladeshi Islamist group released on 15 November 2014. “We are shocked by this act of incredible barbarity and violence and offer our heartfelt condolences to Niloy Neel’s wife and friends,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk. “He is the fourth secularist blogger to be murdered in Bangladesh, following Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman and Ananta Bijoy Das. How many more shocking murders will be needed before the authorities act? We have repeatedly urged the government to respond by taking concrete protective measures. And we have already said that their passivity is tantamount to giving a blank cheque to those responsible for these extremely violent crimes.” Ismaïl added: “Today we would like to tell the authorities that, as well as sharing much of the blame for Neel’s murder, they must answer for their failure to bring those responsible for the murders of the other bloggers to justice. And we will keeping reminding them that the lack of protective measures is unacceptable.” A member of the Shahbag movement, Neel criticized Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist fundamentalism in his blog posts. The holder of a master’s in philosophy from Dhaka University, he was described as a “free-thinker” by Asif Mohiuddin, a Bangladeshi blogger who found refuge in Germany after surviving a similar attack in 2013. The first secularist blogger to be killed this year was Avijit Roy, who was hacked to death near Dhaka University on 26 February. 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. All three criticized fundamentalism and defended toleration, free speech and freedom of opinion. Responsibility for the murders of these bloggers, referred to as “blasphemers,” was claimed in May by the Indian branch of Al-Qaeda and the Bangladeshi extremist group Ansarullah Bangla Team. Bangladesh is ranked 146th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.