The US Ambassador Peter Haas in Dhaka said, “we are concerned about the announcement that 191 online news portals will be blocked. The ability to accept criticism and ensure freedom of speech even when that speech is unpleasant are hallmarks of a strong democracy.”
Free Speech campaigners expressed concerns as the Bangladesh government ordered the shutdown of at least 191 websites it accuses of publishing “anti-state news.”
Information Minister Hasan Mahmud told the country’s parliament in late-January that the government has instructed the telecoms regulator to close the domains following “reports from intelligence agencies.”
The Sheikh Hasina government has long been accused of silencing its critics and clamping down on the media. The draconian Digital Security Act, under which hundreds of people have been arrested since 2018, has caused particular alarm.
“The move to block news sites will hamper freedom of expression in the country. It will pave the way of spreading misinformation and disinformation”, said Faruq Faisel, regional director of media rights watchdog ARTICLE 19 South Asia.
When asked about the government’s decision, Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for the United Nations secretary general, said, “journalists have a right to be able to operate their news sites freely and openly, and we want to see positive movement in that direction.”