The lack of transparency and the highly arbitrary nature of the shutdowns are worrisome
We do not question that there can be legitimate reasons for blocking certain web-sites, but recent BTRC actions have been perplexing, to say the least.
Why did the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission block 58 news sites, only to unblock them soon after, and then block most of them again with no explanation given to the public?
The information minister has said the restriction was a trial run, giving the warning that “similar shut-downs will continue against news portals that publish and circulate fake and baseless news reports.”
Certainly, fake news and news sites with no accountability have been a problem, as this newspaper has editorialized before, but the abrupt suspension of numerous web-sites without adequate explanation does not bode well.
Web-sites that have not broken any law should not be shut down just for a message to be sent.
If indeed there is cause for closure, then a transparent and comprehensive process needs to be followed in bringing them to book.
Due notice must be given, and specific transgressions must be cited as explanation and justification for the shut-down.
Nor is it sufficient to communicate these reasons only to the concerned company. The public too has a right to know the reason why any news web-site should be suspended or closed.
It was the lack of transparency and the apparently arbitrary nature of the recent shut-downs that were so concerning.
As the editor of one of the initially blocked portals has said, the site had not received any warnings or explanations from BTRC or any other government agency in advance, nor had the site previously been accused of publishing fake news. Nor was any example or evidence of any transgression communicated.
This is not the way to go about cracking down on sites that host fake news or other harmful content, and is a worrisome development.
If news portals do need to be shut or suspended, it should be done after the issuance of a proper warning and explanation, both to the company and the public, and not in a seemingly arbitrary and ad hoc manner.