Chanting crowds. Bloody faces. Rubber bullets and metal pipes. Teenagers and police officers. These are the elements flooding the streets of Bangladesh right now.
The government is rapidly trying to shut down internet access to protesters and prevent any images or video from being released that might shed light on what’s going on — so, naturally, the information coming out is limited. While some may say this is an obvious admission of guilt, the tactic has been known to work in other countries when trying to keep the international community from paying too much attention — more importantly, when protesters are using social media as an effective tool to rally and protest, taking this tool away can be extremely damaging to their cause.
Students in Bangladesh are being killed, tortured & silenced for wanting safer roads because of frequent road accidents. This is what is happening if someone tries to take evidence or protesting peacefully. Please help Bangladesh to get Justice
— Naz🍂 (@vkook_sugar) August 5, 2018
So what started all of this?
Two students in Dhaka, Bangladesh‘s capital city, were killed recently when hit by a bus. Bangladesh has long been plagued with notorious public transportation, and these deaths seemed to be the straws that broke the camel’s back.
Students began flooding the streets in protest for a better, safer public transportation system. The protests were so strong in numbers that it essentially began to shut the entire capital off from the rest of the country — standing in major intersections or on main roads has eliminated much of Dhaka’s day-to-day operations.
This is when the police started stepping in, and things began to escalate very quickly. There have been all sorts of reports of violence against the protesters — remember this is generally a student protest, and a lot of these kids are teenagers between 13 and 18. Rubber bullets have been fired, police have been accused not only of excessive force time and time again but even rape. Countless people have been injured in the retaliatory efforts to silence the protests.
While this is still an outcry for public transportation, it’s also becoming about freedom of speech, freedom to protest, and the freedom of the press.
Some of the police efforts have been bolstered by student groups who sympathize with silencing the protests, and violence has erupted between them and protesters as well. These student groups are sometimes described as actual arms to political organizations within student bodies and have been known to get extreme or even violent with their methods before.
There have also been significant efforts to cut off protesters from the internet and other forms of media. Hashtags, certain social media platforms and all other sorts of online methods of unification and protest are being censored. A Bangladesh 24 hour TV station, Ekattor TV, has been told by the government not to “air programmes, news, and footage that goes against the National Broadcast Policy-2014 and could encourage public disorder,” according to local news — and like that station, many local newsgroups are still managing to report on the subject to some degrees.
Censoring these sorts of things in the modern era will prove incredibly difficult — if not impossible — as information can travel so freely across the internet.
The picture below, pulled from Twitter, is of a freelance journalist who is being threatened and beaten with metal rods because of his camera. He is also pictured above, with a bloody face, after the encounter.
Featured images courtesy of Twitter.