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.


Turkey blocks NBA games featuring Erdogan-critic player

Updated 19 May 2019
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Turkey blocks NBA games featuring Erdogan-critic player

  • Turkey’s broadcasters have ignored Kanter’s games since he was indicted last year by a Turkish court
  • Kanter, a member of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen’s movement, is a vocal critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

DUBAI: Turkish sports broadcaster, S Sport, has blocked the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) western conference finals between Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors from being screened due to the former’s center Enes Kanter.

“I can say clearly that we will not be broadcasting the Warriors-Blazers series,” S Sport commentator Omer Sarac told Reuters. “Furthermore, if Portland makes it to the finals, [that] will not be broadcast either… this situation is not about us, but it is what it is.”

Kanter, a member of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen’s movement, is a vocal critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A warrant for his arrest has been issued by the Turkish government for alleged terrorism charges, and his passport was canceled in 2017.

“All these NBA fans, they want to watch the Western Conference finals, but they can’t all because of me. It’s funny and crazy. [The Turkish government] is afraid of an NBA player,” Kanter said in a phone interview with the Washington Post on Tuesday.

“I’m not a politician. It’s not my job, but everyone is so scared of Erdogan that I have to step up and speak out for freedom and human rights. It shows it’s a dictatorship in Turkey.”

Although Kanter is Turkey’s most successful basketball player ever, he is considered to be an “enemy of the country,” and Turkey’s broadcasters have ignored Kanter’s games since he was indicted last year by a Turkish court. 

In response, the NBA scrapped its contract with the local vendor running the Turkish Twitter account.

Basketball’s popularity is second only to soccer among Turkey’s 82 million people.

“It is mind-blowing that a conference final will not be broadcast in Turkey,” said Mete Aktas, a well-known Turkish NBA commentator and former chief editor of NBA Turkey magazine.

(With Reuters)