Bangladesh’s telecoms regulator located in Dhaka has ‘shut down’ 58 online news portals, citing security reasons, as officials scrutinise hundreds of sites before a parliamentary election this month. The move comes as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government is already facing criticism for introducing laws that many journalists fear are aimed at curbing press freedom.
The 58 sites were found to be registered with the information ministry and hence their contents were being examined, said Abdul Malek, an official at the Information Technology ministry.
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) asked International Internet Gateway (IIG) operators to block those 58 news websites, BTRC spokesman Zakir Hossain Khan said, without elaborating on the security concerns. The news portals were still inaccessible while this report was being composed.
“When an issue is raised to us by the commission which is related to law and order of the country, we are bound to comply,” IIG President Sarwar Alam Shikder stated when asked about the blockage of certain news media websites.
“It is the responsibility of this ministry to bring all news portals under a system so that they can run smoothly,” he said, adding that another one hundred (unregistered) websites were also under surveillance & scrutiny.
Critics have decried Hasina’s government increasingly authoritarian rule, the government’s handling of student protests this year and its crackdown on free speech.