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PEN Atlas presents: Words cannot be killed: Freedom of expression in Bangladesh

Past Event

In 2015, there were four deadly attacks on bloggers in Bangladesh and these chilling incidents highlight the risks for writers who exercise their right to free speech. Many international human rights organisations, including English PEN, have called for the government of Bangladesh to safeguard and defend freedom of expression and to end the culture of impunity.

Marking the one year anniversary since the death of secular blogger Avijit Roy, former prisoner of conscience and journalist Tasneem Khalil and Ahsan Akbar, director of Dhaka Literary Festival, will discuss the state of freedom of expression in Bangladesh with BBC broadcaster Razia Iqbal.

PEN Atlas is English PEN’s blog publishing weekly dispatches from around the world. Their new series of events present a lively programme of debate and discourse for an internationally-minded audience.


Ahsan Akbar was born in London and subsequently grew up in Dhaka, before moving back to the UK at 16 on his own. He studied at Exeter, worked as a vinyl record seller, bookseller, and as an equities trader in the City and Southeast Asia. His debut book, The Devil’s Thumbprint, is a collection of poems. He is a director of Dhaka Literary Festival and board member of Bengal Lights, Bangladesh's most prominent new English literary journal. He lives in London, and is currently at work on a novel.

Razia Iqbal is one of the main presenters of Newshour, the BBC World Service radio's flagship current affairs programme. She also regularly presents the World Tonight on BBC Radio 4. She was the BBC arts correspondent for a decade and has also worked as a political reporter. She has worked for the BBC for 25 years, in both television and radio, and has lived and reported from Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Tasneem Khalil is the editor and publisher of Independent World Report, a journal of human rights and global politics. He has written and commented for the International Herald Tribune, National Public Radio (NPR), the Guardian, the Washington Post and the BBC. He was declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International in 2007 following his detention by the Bangladeshi military intelligence agency. In 2008, Swedish PEN conferred him with an honorary membership for his journalism. His most recent book, Jallad, explores systems of state terror in South Asia.

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