Bangladesh shuts down popular blogging site in crackdown

Social media apps, such as TikTok and Bigo, were also blocked in the crackdown. (Shutterstock/File)
Updated 27 February 2019
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Bangladesh shuts down popular blogging site in crackdown

  • Numerous other websites and a number of social media apps were blocked
  • Telecoms minister said website was blocked due to offensive content

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s most popular Bengali blog platform has been blocked by telecom regulators in what critics Wednesday denounced as an assault on freedom of expression.
The somewhereinblog.net platform was among more than 20,000 websites that Internet service providers were ordered to shut down as part of a crackdown on online pornography and gambling.
But the platform, which hosts more than 250,000 registered bloggers, said it does not allow any obscene content, adding the crackdown was a clear attempt at censorship.
The sweep also blocked the Bengali version of Google Books as well as popular social media apps such as TikTok and Bigo.
“We were stunned after discovering our blog was blacklisted and blocked,” said Mozaddid Al Fasani, a moderator and spokesman for somewhereinblog.net
“Our platform, in no way, supports or spreads pornographic or obscene material and we always stay on a high alert regarding content that might hamper national security or sovereignty.”
The spokesman described reported allegations by the telecoms minister that the site promotes atheism as “disheartening.”
“We ... believe in the freedom of speech. As long as someone doesn’t cross the boundary (of inciting hatred) and expresses his or her opinion about social issues and religion, we see no reason to censor them,” Al Fasani told AFP.
Telecoms Minister Mustafa Jabbar, who ordered the crackdown, told the Dhaka Tribune newspaper that somewhereinblog.net was closed due to objectionable content.
“Have you ever gone through the content that blogging websites publish? After verifying reports on all the websites, we made the move,” Jabbar said.
Rights groups have accused the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, which has just started a fourth term, of undermining free speech.
Last September the government passed a controversial digital security act that journalists said severely curbs media freedom.
Dozens of social media activists including celebrated photographer Shahidul Alam were detained for several months last year for social media comments about student protests in Dhaka.


Role of media in supporting Palestinian cause stressed

Updated 18 July 2019
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Role of media in supporting Palestinian cause stressed

  • Ministers hold meeting in Cairo to overcome crises in Arab region

CAIRO: The 50th Ordinary Session of the Council of Arab Information Ministers was held in Cairo on Wednesday under the chairmanship of Saudi Minister of Media Turki Al-Shabanah, in the presence of Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit and Arab media agencies and bodies to discuss important issues, strategic visions and mechanisms related to the media.

The council discussed the agenda of the Arab Media Action Plan abroad, where it will work on developing new ideas to support its role in serving its three pillars, including the Palestinian cause, combating terrorism, and correcting the image of Arabs and Muslims.

It also discussed a number of important items, including the Arab Media Strategy; the Arab Media Plan for Sustainable Development; the role of the Arab media in combating terrorism; the Arab Electronic Media Committee; and the Arab media capital.

Al-Shabanah said that they would work with all their capabilities to help the Palestinian people regain their usurped rights, foremost of which is the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem (Al-Quds) as its capital, in accordance with relevant international resolutions and the Arab initiative.

The current situation requires the Arab media be aware of the dangers facing the Arab world so that they can respond intellectually, consciously and publicly to terrorism.

Turki Al-Shabanah, Saudi media minister

He added that another important item on this council’s agenda is the role of the Arab media in combating terrorism. He said there was a need to address it by activating the pivotal role of Arab media in the face of a global phenomenon that has negatively affected individuals and Arab communities and claimed the lives of thousands of innocent people around the world. 

Al-Shabanah said that Saudi Arabia has spared no effort in addressing the phenomenon of terrorism and cooperation with relevant parties internationally and regionally.

He said that the current situation requires the Arab media be aware of the dangers facing the Arab world so that they can respond intellectually, consciously and publicly to terrorism, unite to fight it and expose its supporters, and work systematically to drain its sources of funding using all necessary measures.

He stressed the need to unite to work with all force and firmness to fight terrorism, save innocent lives and preserve properties through the implementation of specific informative and awareness programs of this dangerous and destructive phenomenon.