The telecom regulator unblocked the portals around 5pm
Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has reopened 58 news portals hours after access to them were restricted by the regulator on "national security" grounds on Monday.
BTRC Senior Assistant Director (Media and Communication wing) Md Zakir Hossain Khan told the Dhaka Tribune that they, as the technical authority, unblocked the portals around 5pm.
The development took place following an order from BTRC acting chairman Md Jahurul Haque, confirmed Zakir.
Earlier in the day, the BTRC official told the Dhaka Tribune that they blocked the news portals after the authorities concerned asked them to do so for the sake of ‘national security’. The regulator, however, did not elaborate the reasons.
The regulatory body on Sunday sent letters to international internet gateway (IIG) operators and internet service providers (ISP) to restrict access to the news sites.
However, a number of these 58 news sites were still found operating hours after the order was issued.
“We gave the order based on recommendations from the government and law enforcement agencies,” BTRC Senior Assistant Director Zakir told UNB on Monday.
Despite several attempts to contact him by phone, BTRC acting chairman Md Jahurul Haque could not be reached for comment.
When contacted, Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu said the blocking of the 58 news portals had been ordered as they were circulating propaganda and fake news.
“This was done on a trial run basis,” he added.
What the blocked news portals say
Zakaria Swapan, editor of blocked news portal priyo.com, said they received neither a warning nor an explanation from the BTRC or any other government agency before their website was blocked.
Rejecting allegations that they were propagating fake news, he said: “We run only factual, objective and verified stories.”
Swapan claimed that the portal had never received any complaints over the veracity of their stories.
Mohammad Nowsher Ali, editor of risingbd.com, also said they were not notified by the authorities concerned as to why their portal was blocked.
He added that the BTRC did not even contact them when their news portal was reopened.
Waseq Billah Soudha, joint editor of dhakatimes24.com, declined to comment on the matter. The news portal’s Editor Ariful Rahman Dolon was denied the Awami League ticket for Faridpur-1 constituency.
daily71.com acting editor arrested
Meanwhile, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) has arrested daily71.com acting editor Sheikh Riad Muhammad Noor, for allegedly posting seditious, false, and baseless news on social media.
He was arrested in a drive by RAB 3 in Dhaka’s Segunbagicha area on Saturday night.
On Monday, A Dhaka court placed Riad on three-day remand in a case filed under the Digital Security Act.
Earlier on December 1, Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit Chief Monirul Islam said district level media cells are being set up to control the spread of rumours centring on the upcoming general election.
“Media cells are being set up by police at the district level to prevent the circulation of propaganda, mainly through social media, websites, and news portals, during the forthcoming general election,” he said.