News

April 1, 2019 - Updated on April 3, 2019

RSF decries brazen censorship of Bangladeshi news websites

Screenshot of TheJoban news site, which is still inaccessible in Bangladesh (photo: thejoban.com / RSF).
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Bangladeshi authorities to unblock access to TheJoban, a Bangladeshi news website that has been blocked in Bangladesh since 21 March, after reporting allegations that the prime minister’s security adviser was involved in the disappearance of three men.

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Actualisation

RSF decries with great vehemence information website Al Jazeera's blocage, rendered yet again inaccessible throughout the whole Bangladeshi territory.

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“We weren’t notified – our site was suddenly blocked,” TheJoban subeditor Mashqur Ratul said. The mainly Bengali-language site got the details for its report from a story published the previous day on the Al Jazeera English website, access to which was entirely blocked within Bangladesh.


TheJoban sent a request to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) on 23 March asking to be unblocked but has yet to receive a reply. “This blocking clearly jeopardizes our work,” Ratul told RSF. “We are about to lose our jobs. We just want to work freely.” The government denies any blocking.


“We call on the authorities to end this utterly brazen act of censorship by immediately unblocking access to TheJoban,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “The blocking is endangering an independent media outlet that helps to keep Bangladeshi democracy alive and is symptomatic of an alarming trend in Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government, which is increasingly unable to tolerate journalists who do their duty by investigating the activities of its members.”


New system


When they wanted to censor a website by blocking access, the Bangladeshi security agencies had until now maintained a semblance of following procedure by sending instructions to the BTRC, which then passed the blocking request on to Internet access providers.


But in this case, it was the government that directly cut access to both sites a few hours after the publication of the offending articles, without turning to BTRC.


In late February, the authorities ordered the blocking of somewhereinblog.net, a very popular Bengali-language blog platform, on the pretext that this required for a campaign against online pornography and gambling. Before the December 2018 elections, the government also ordering the blocking of 54 independent or opposition sites on the grounds of preventing the spread of “fake news.”


Bangladesh is ranked 146th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.