Afghanistan orders suspension of WhatsApp, Telegram

Social media users and civil rights groups reacted with outrage to initial reports of Afghanistan’s move to block WhatsApp and Telegram. (Reuters)
Updated 05 November 2017
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Afghanistan orders suspension of WhatsApp, Telegram

KABUL: Afghanistan has ordered the suspension of WhatsApp and Telegram to resolve “technical problems,” officials said Saturday, sparking outcry among social media users.
Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Telegram are popular messaging apps among smartphone-using Afghans — including Taliban and Daesh terrorists.
So far state-owned Salaam Network is the only Internet provider to obey the order, which applies from November 1 to November 20, telecommunications ministry spokesman Najib Nangyalay told AFP.
“We are testing a new technology and WhatsApp and Telegram will be temporarily blocked,” Nangyalay said.
“It is not a blow to the freedom of communication in Afghanistan — we have access to Facebook, Twitter. We are committed to the freedom of expression.”
Acting telecommunications minister Shahzad Aryobee said the move was in response to dissatisfaction with the services — something industry insiders rejected.
“In order to improve the services and solve the technical problems of these two programs the Ministry of Telecommunication and Information Technology is considering to introduce a new technology,” Aryobee said in a Facebook post on Friday.
Testing is “time-consuming” and required the temporary stoppage of WhatsApp and Telegram.
The move has ignited a firestorm on social media with users describing the move to block the messaging services as an assault on their right to free speech.
“Blocking WhatsApp and Telegram is the beginning of censorship by the Afghan government and bringing the virtual world under their control in Afghanistan. I think this is intolerable,” Facebook user Abdullah wrote.
Another user Mahdi Yasir said the quality of WhatsApp and Telegram “are great” and urged the government to focus on closing “factories producing Pakistani suicide bombers” instead.
“The two applications we were using the most are blocked. God damn this government,” Abdulraouf Sharifi posted.
A telecommunications official scoffed at the government’s claim to be developing a new technology.
“They are not going to match an international standard app,” he said.
“WhatsApp is very popular because it uses less data and the quality is very good.
“It could be security related (but) if they block it people can access VPNs,” he added, referring to virtual private networks.
Around eight million people, largely in Afghanistan’s major cities, can access the Internet, up from almost none during the Taliban’s repressive 1996-2001 regime. Most do so through mobile phones.
The Taliban frequently uses WhatsApp to post statements in Afghanistan while IS militants favor Telegram.
 


Bangladesh police arrest lawyer-publisher tied to opposition

Updated 23 October 2018
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Bangladesh police arrest lawyer-publisher tied to opposition

  • Detectives arrested Moinul Hosein after raiding an opposition leader’s home in Dhaka
  • Details of the charges were not immediately clear including whether they were related to a recently passed digital security law
DHAKA, Bangladesh: A prominent lawyer and newspaper publisher who is tied to Bangladesh’s political opposition has been arrested on defamation charges amid concern the government is acting tough on dissent ahead of national elections, police said Tuesday.
Detectives arrested Moinul Hosein late Monday after raiding an opposition leader’s home in the capital, said Mahbub Alam, a joint commissioner of the Detective Branch of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police.
Hosein is the publisher of the English-language New Nation daily and heads its editorial board.
Alam said the warrant issued by a court in northern Bangladesh on Monday involved a television talk show appearance where Hosein called a journalist “characterless” after she asked him if he represented the Jamaat-e-Islami party to a recently formed opposition alliance.
Details of the charges were not immediately clear including whether they were related to a recently passed digital security law.
The head of the alliance is another prominent lawyer and head of a smaller party, Kamal Hossain, who was chosen by prominent opposition figures and civil society members including Hosein.
The main party in the alliance is the Bangladesh Nationalist Party headed by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, who is now in jail for corruption and whose elder son is the party’s heir-apparent and would face prison himself if he returned from London where he lives. Recently a court in Dhaka sentenced Tarique Rahman to life in prison for a 2004 grenade attack on then-opposition leader Sheikh Hasina, now prime minister, in which 24 people were killed. Hasina narrowly escaped.
The opposition alliance was formed this month in hopes of defeating the ruling alliance of Hasina in the next elections, which are expected to be held in December.
Jamaat-e-Islami is a close ally of Zia’s party, and Hasina’s government has executed almost all the party’s top leaders for their role in killings, arson and rape during Bangladesh’s independence war against Pakistan in 1971.
Hosein, who is a critic of Hasina, is expected to be produced before the court Tuesday. He was a former adviser to an army-backed caretaker government in 2006-2008 when both Hasina and Zia were arrested before Hasina came out and won the elections in 2008 to form the government.
Hosein’s arrest came hours after Hasina criticized his comment against the journalist and asked female journalists to file defamation charges against him.
The government has recently passed a digital security law, despite widespread criticism by journalists and rights groups that it would be used against freedom of speech and press freedom. The government says it has been enacted to protect the country from misinformation and propaganda.