Human rights activist and secular blogger, Asad Noor, has been facing threats and intimidation for his human rights work since 2015 both from state and non-state actors. In January 2017, Noor was arrested at Dhaka airport and charged with defamation of religion under the now defunct Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act for content he had posted on social media. Though released briefly on bail in August 2018, he was subsequently re-arrested after a radical Islamic organization known as Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh called for him to be imprisoned and subjected to the death penalty.
After his release from custody in 2019, Noor went into hiding for his own safety; he has continued to promote secularism and free thought in his blogs while in hiding. Noor’s posts are regularly met with requests for removal by Islamists. In recent days, Noor has reported yet another incident of his posts being removed after unknown individuals lodged false copyright infringement claims.
On 2 May 2023, Noor posted an image of Bangladesh Information Minister Muhammad Hasan Mahmud, with a caption “Vote thief’s joke on May Day!”. In response, Noor received messages warning him that his page would soon be taken down. On 19 May, Noor received notification from Facebook that his page would no longer be accessible to individuals inside Bangladesh following a request made by the Bangladeshi government indicating that it contradicted local laws. No further information regarding the specific laws he is alleged to have breached was provided.
Emma Wadsworth-Jones, Casework & Campaigns Manager for Humanists International stated:
“Blogging has been an essential tool for Bangladeshi secular activists for over a decade; representing a means of reaching a wider audience. Humanists International is deeply concerned that Facebook has complied with the Bangladeshi government’s request believing that Asad Noor is being targeted by the government for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. The organization calls for Meta to reinstate access to Noor’s account for individuals within Bangladesh.”
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