The regulatory body of Bangladesh’s biggest book fair, Ekushey Book Fair, has banned a publishing house from attending the exhibition for the next two years for criticizing the authority.
Bangla Academy, the organizer of the national book fair, has banned Shrabon Prakashani citing its owner’s criticism regarding the arrest of a publisher earlier this year. Robin Ahsan, the owner of the publishing house has confirmed the ban on a Facebook post.
‘‘I have learned today that Shrabon Prakashani has been banned from Bangla Academy for two years!!! The decision has been taken on the 6th meeting on the book fair where the cultural minister was present!!! What can we do now?’’ he wrote on Facebook today.
Local media cited Ahsan’s outspoken attitude behind the ban. He criticized the authority for banning a book titled “Islam Bitorko” (“Debate on Islam”) during this year’s book fair that took place in February. Ahsan’s fellow publisher, Shamsuzzoha Manik, who owns the publishing house Ba-Dwip Prakashan, was arrested on February 15, 2016, for publishing the book that deemed to be offensive to Islam. He has got bail recently.
‘‘A ugly book about Prophet Muhammad was published last year. Bangladesh’s interior minister banned and confiscated the book later. The publisher of the book was arrested as well. Shrabon protested the ban with a placard saying, ‘the book can’t be banned.’ The publishing house has been banned for that reason,’’ Bangla academy’s director general Shamsuzzaman Khan told the Channel I online newspaper.
Ahsan said such decision of the academy is extremely discriminatory and clear infringement of the right to express. ‘Standing for a publisher cannot be a crime. I had protested the arrest of a publisher,’ he said to the New Age newspaper.
Meanwhile, many people on Social media criticized the ban. Supriti Dhar, a Dhaka-based journalist, marked the ban as ”unjust” and demanded to recall it. Baki Billah, a prominent activist, has urged writers and publishers to actively protest the ban.
Islamic extremists in Bangladesh have killed at least nine writers, activists, academics, and students since February 2015. Many of them were atheists and known for their critical opinion on Islam.
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