SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: April 02, 2018

Attack Types: Prosecution

Institution(s):Dhaka University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Bangladesh

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 2, 2018, Dhaka University (DU) professor Morshed Hasan Khan was charged with sedition for a newspaper article he wrote about the late Bangladeshi President Ziaur Rahman.

Khan is a professor at DU’s Faculty of Business Studies’ Department of Marketing. On March 26, 2018, Khan authored an op-ed about the Bangladesh War of Independence in the Daily Naya Diganta newspaper. In his piece, Khan made remarks about former presidents Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Ziaur Rahman. On April 2, 2018, DU suspended Khan for “distorting the liberation war history” and “disrespecting the father of the nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.” On September 9, 2020, the university dismissed Khan (see report).

Following the publication of Khan’s op-ed, student members of the Awami League, the ruling political party, held demonstrations on DU’s campus. On April 2, 2018, a DU student affiliated with the Awami League filed a sedition case against Rahman at the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court. If convicted, Khan could face life imprisonment.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the prosecution of a scholar in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the right to freedom of expression—conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bangladesh is a party. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from restricting the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, so long as it is nonviolent and responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, prosecutions intended to restrict or retaliate against expressive activity, when directed against members of the higher education community, undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.