BTRC blocks BSS while weeding illegal news sites out
The BTRC yesterday shut down the government's own Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha website, and other news portals like bdnews24.com and jagonews24.com for several hours as it attempted to comply with a High Court order to block all unregistered news outlets.
Post, Telecommunication and Information Technology Minister Mustafa Jabbar had to intervene to get those unblocked.
Following a writ petition, the HC on September 24 ordered the BTRC to shut down unregistered news portals within seven days and ban registered ones that resort to unethical practices.
"Today [yesterday] was the last day and we started working on this and we found that a number registered sites including state-owned media are falling under the criteria. We have stopped after that and reopened the sites. We will decide on this issue tomorrow [today]," said Subrata Roy Maitra, vice chairman of the BTRC.
The writ petition mentioned 92 registered news portals.
Failing to the get a list of unregistered news portals from the information ministry, the BTRC itself identified 213 "errant' news sites and started blocking those yesterday evening.
Minister Mustafa Jabbar said the High court only gave the BTRC seven days on September 24 to shut all unregistered and unapproved online news portals.
"And that day, I told the BTRC to ask the information ministry for a list of registered news portals as they know which are registered or unregistered.
"But the information ministry could not provide the list ... and I think it is very difficult to prepare such a list in seven days as the world of internet is vast."
He said yesterday was the last day to implement the court order and the BTRC started blocking websites to avert contempt of court proceedings against it.
"But the moment I heard that the Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha website was blocked, I instantly called the BTRC chairman and others tasked with blocking sites to unblock it as it is the national news agency. Besides, I instructed them to open all other news outlets like bdnews24.com and jagonews24.com."
"Now all the sites are accessible."
Jabbar said he also called the information minister for getting the list quickly.
Interesting, the BTRC earlier in the day told the High Court that it would take action against the errant news portals after getting their list from the information ministry.
It said it was yet to receive the list from the information ministry, BTRC lawyer Farzana Sharmin told the HC during the hearing of a writ petition.
She also prayed for two weeks' time from the HC for complying with its earlier directive to ban unregistered news portals.
The bench of Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Justice Md Kamrul Hossain Mollah, however, fixed October 25 for hearing and passing further orders on the issue.
Following the filing of a petition in August, the HC bench this month directed the government to ban all unregistered news portals.
It also has ruled that even if any registered news portal was involved in unethical practices, like spreading disinformation, the government could ban it.
The respondents (chairpersons of BTRC and Bangladesh Press Council) were directed to take immediate steps to ban all unregistered news portals, except the 92 registered ones mentioned in the petition, within seven days from the receipt of the order copy.
It also said if the registered ones were spreading disinformation, then the respondents had the liberty to ban them.
The HC bench delivered the order during the hearing of a writ petition filed by Supreme Court lawyers Rasida Chowdhury Nilu and Zaren Rahman seeking necessary directives from the court.