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Bangladesh: Elections

Question for Foreign and Commonwealth Office

UIN HL11618, tabled on 20 November 2018

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to support civil society and media organisations in Bangladesh ahead of the forthcoming general election.

Answered on

4 December 2018

We remain very concerned by continuing restrictions on freedom of expression in Bangladesh. The Digital Security Act has attracted significant Civil Society and media criticism in Bangladesh. There are fears that the vagueness of its provisions could be used to prosecute a range of behaviours, and that its sentences are disproportionate. On 27 September, the UK, along with other EU Missions in Dhaka, issued a statement raising concerns that the Act could undermine freedom of expression. Subsequently, the Acting High Commissioner met the Bangladeshi Information Minister on 9 October to emphasise our concerns. Bangladesh remains a Human Rights Priority Country for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We raised freedom of expression as a key concern in Bangladesh during the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review.

I am clear that the UK wants to see a free, fair and pluralistic general election in Bangladesh, and continuing restrictions on freedom of expression will have a negative impact on that election. Ministers and our High Commission in Dhaka have consistently encouraged the Government of Bangladesh and opposition parties to engage in an effective dialogue to this end. The Minister for Asia and the Pacific, Mark Field, raised his concerns regarding the election with Bangladesh State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Shahriar Alam, in a call on 1 November. As did I when I spoke to him on the 23 November. The Foreign Secretary raised his concerns with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina when they met on 24 September at the UN General Assembly in New York.