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Speakers: Government controlling social media in Bangladesh

  • Published at 11:46 pm July 8th, 2021
social media
Photo: BIGSTOCK

They also say people have the technology and the laws, but they do not have digital literacy

Speakers at a discussion on the human rights situation in Bangladesh have alleged that the government is making laws to control social media without considering public opinion.

Taking part in a webinar on freedom of the internet and digital Bangladesh on Thursday, they also criticized the governance system as well as the abuse of the Digital Security Act.

Nagorik, a human rights organization, organized the discussion.

Bangladesh has the law but there is no proper use, said CR Abrar, professor of international relations at Dhaka University.

On the issue of the government blocking websites as well as applications, Rasel Ahmed, a web developer, said: "The government cannot do this without any notice. They should think about the impacts.”

There should be a committee with representatives from the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Department, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), Access to information (A2I) program, and others who will make the decision about whether a website should be blocked or not, he suggests.


Also Read - Info Minister: Media enjoying optimum freedom in Bangladesh


Prof CR Abrar presided over the event where Supreme Court lawyer barrister Jyotirmoy Barua was the host. Mirza Taslima, Hasnat Quaiyum, Prof Anu Muhammad and Sumon Rahman also spoke. They observed that the people in Bangladesh have the technology, the law, but they do not have digital literacy.

Internet safety, online harassments

Lamia Tanjin Tanha, a Dhaka University student, said: "I need to use Facebook for my work purpose though every day I get bullied there."

She shared her experience when talking about internet safety.

"When I was in the eighth grade, I opened a Facebook account and used cartoons as my profile picture so that no one could see my face. But a few days later, I discovered in the ‘other’ message box that a lot of people had sent me obscene pictures, videos and texts.

"I felt scared. I could not understand why they were sending these pictures and asking for my picture," Tanha said. She later took screenshots of the messages and uploaded those on Facebook.

"However, one of my cousin brothers questioned why they had sent those pictures only to me. He implied that I had a problem. At one point, I started to believe his words," she explained.

Tanha is also the founder of TransEnd – an organization for the marginalized and underrepresented hijra, non-binary, genderqueer, transgender, and intersex communities in Bangladesh.

She said people continuously send messages to her Facebook page TransEnd, asking: "Are you a hijra?"

Another Dhaka University student named Sheikh Tasnim Afroz Emi said that she would quit politics because she faced a lot of bullying because of her political involvement. But the law enforcers did not help her.

"In 2018, during the anti-quota movement, the DB police detained me just because of a Facebook post which went viral. Though people were threatening me that they will rape as well as kill me, the police [blamed me and] took passwords of all of my social media accounts, which is a violation of privacy,” she said.

"Later, during the Ducsu elections, people wrote perverse things on Facebook about me and VP Nur. I went to the cybercrime department of the police as well as Shahbagh police station, but no one helped me," she added.

Writer and journalist Rokeya Rita said that she faced a lot of bullying on Facebook for writing the novel "Dumurer Phool" on homosexuality.

“I wanted to break the taboo, but instead I ended up being bullied online. People were threatening me on Facebook that I'll be raped and killed. That was a horrible time of my life," she added.

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