DHAKA: Bangladeshi officials have sought the removal from online platforms of a controversial investigative report by Al Jazeera after a high court ruling cleared legal grounds for the move.
The report, “All the Prime Minister’s Men,” broadcast by the Qatar-based TV channel on Feb. 1, alleged that Bangladeshi Army chief Gen. Aziz Ahmed had offered aid to his fugitive brothers, who are wanted for the murder of a rival politician, with the tacit approval of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The high court in Dhaka on Wednesday ordered the country’s telecom regulator to remove the content from several online platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.
However, the court rejected a writ filed by a Supreme Court lawyer seeking to ban Al Jazeera transmission in the country.
Mustafa Jabbar, Bangladesh’s post and telecommunication minister, told Arab News on Thursday: “We have already contacted Facebook authorities and placed a request to remove the Al Jazeera report content immediately.”
However, he added that the ministry will not block websites that carry the report.
“Technically, we can’t block any particular content on a particular website in Bangladesh. We need to block the website in such a case. But we don’t block any website that contains news and information as it hampers people’s rights of expression,” Jabbar said, adding that he expected Facebook to act soon.
It is unclear when the Al Jazeera content will be removed.
Brig. Gen. Nasim Parvez, director-general of system and service at the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), said the organization has also been in touch with Facebook over the matter.
“They (Facebook) will work in their way. It’s not a time-defined matter,” he told Arab News.
Senior high court lawyer Monjil Morshed said that while the court can request the removal of any content that appears harmful or demeaning to the state, the BTRC has no control over what is streamed from abroad.
“In this case, BTRC will make requests to Facebook and other online platform authorities, and they will conduct their own investigation before making any move,” he said.
Leading Bangladeshi journalist Naimul Islam Khan said that the decision to remove the Al Jazeera report was not “much needed.”
“The report had many shortcomings and we were critical (of its) weaknesses. In many cases it seemed politically motivated,” he told Arab News.
However, he added: “Personally, I don’t like any kind of interference in the freedom of expression and journalism.”
Meanwhile, another case related to the Al Jazeera report was filed with a Dhaka court on Wednesday, accusing Swedish-Bangladeshi journalist Tasneem Khalil, Hungary-based entrepreneur Zulkarnain Saer Khan, British journalist David Bergman and Al Jazeera Media Network Acting Director Mostefa Souag of sedition in connection with their involvement in the documentary’s production.
An order in the case is expected on Monday.