Mass shutdown of Bangladeshi news websites08 Aug, 2016
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangbadik Forum (BMSF) in expressing serious concerns over arbitrary blocking of 35 news sites. The IFJ demands immediate withdrawal of the imposed blocks and urges the Bangladesh Government to investigate the incident.
On August 4, the Bangladesh Telecommunications and Regulatory Commission (BTRC) ordered all International Internet Gateway service providers in Bangladesh to block access to 35 websites, including pro-opposition Sheersha News and Amar Desh Online, a news site of a pro-opposition Bengali daily that was shut down in 2013 following government’s cancellation of its license. The BTRC said they were blocked ‘for making objectionable comments about the government’.
Ekramul Hoque, the head of Sheersha News, commented: “We think it’s a direct assault on the country’s freedom of press. The government is shutting down the news organizations they don’t like. They want total control of the media. By closing down news portals, the government is sending a clear message to all media firms that they won’t tolerate any news organization that does not follow their line.”
Zahed Chowdhury, the chief news editor of Amar Desh Online, commented: “We have not done anything contrary to public interests or safety… The reason is the government does not like us. They gagged us over fear, lest we become a problem for them in future.”
The sites blocked include:rtnews24.com, haquekotha.com, amrabnp.com, real-timenews.com,bnation24.com, nationnewsbd.com, bhoreralap.com, banglapost24.com, dailytimes24.com,mynewsbd.com, livekhobor.com, rikhan.com, sheershanewsbd.com, natunerdak.com,sylhetvoice24.com, somoybangla.com, prothom-news.com, banglalatestnews.com, bdmonitor.net,bdupdatenews24.net, newsdaily24bd.com, amardeshonline.com, doinikamardesh.com,onnojogot24.com, amarbangladesh-online.com, desh-bd.net, crimebdnews24.com,natunsokal.com, sheershakhobor.com, onb24.com, dinkalonline.net, sarabangla.com,parstoday.com, weeklysonarbangla.net and 24banglanewsblog.wordpress.com
The IFJ notes that Bangladesh shut down several social media and internet-based communication services for three weeks in November, 2015 following the executions of two opposition leaders on war-crime charges. The BTRC also tested its ability to shut down the internet and mobile phone services in specific locations in first week of August, 2016.
The IFJ said: “The IFJ is seriously concerned about the arbitrary blocking of 35 news sites in Bangladesh. The IFJ believes that the arbitrary decision to block websites is contrary to democratic principles and freedom of expression, thus urges the Bangladesh government to immediately revoke the decision; and follow proper judicial procedure if the contents of the websites are deemed illegal.”