Bangladesh Seeks To Throttle Independent News Sites And Their Awkward Stories

from the good-news-only dept

One of the great things about online news sites is that they are so easy to set up: you don't need a printing press or huge numbers of journalists -- you just start posting interesting stories to the Web and you are away. That is, you do unless you happen to live in Bangladesh, where new regulations will make it much harder to set up news sites, as this story from Access Now explains:

the regulation "stipulates that a onetime payment of Bangladeshi Taka 500,000 (USD $6,100) should be deposited with the Ministry of Information to get a license for an online news portal. Each year this license should be renewed by paying 50,000 Taka (USD $610). The license fee can be revised by the government at anytime."

To put those numbers in context, the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in Bangladesh, when adjusted for purchasing power parity, is roughly USD $1,700 per year. That ranks 196th in the world, right near the bottom.
Bangladesh is not only one of the poorest nations on earth, it also does pretty badly when it comes to press freedom, ranking 129 out of 179 countries listed on Reporters Without Borders' Press Freedom Index for 2011-12. The new regulations seem likely to push it further down that list, not least thanks to rules like these:
The following program/news should not be published/broadcast: … (b) Any news/program that is violating the main principles of the state and the governance; … (e) Any indecent or provocative satire/music/advertisement/news or any program with subtitles that may pollute, corrupt or hurt peoples' feeling and morality. … (k) Any news/program that may hurt the feeling of any friendly country.
Other requirements are that the servers running the news site must be located inside Bangladesh, and that their IP addresses must be provided to the Ministry of Information. More bizarrely:
No local online portal should link to other local and international news portals.
As the Access Now piece points out, this suggests the Bangladeshi government doesn’t understand how the Internet works, since a news site without links to other online news stories is doomed to parochialism.

Or maybe that's the point. After all, it seems pretty clear that the measures are designed to stifle dissent and criticism of the government by making it very hard for independent news sites to be created except by well-funded outfits more interested in profits than protest, and hobbling them in various ways even if they do. It's particularly sad to see Bangladesh trying to restrict the use of a wonderful technology that could do so much to help lift its people from the difficult circumstances in which they live.

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    The Real Michael, Oct 15th, 2012 @ 5:39am

    They're imposing what is essentially a mandatory fee in order to post an online news article and/or broadcast. The rules set forth would give the Bangladesh government authority to shut down anything deemed "offensive" according to their own definition of the term.

    When you put a price tag on speech, freedom dies.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2012 @ 5:48am

    Does a blog come under the category of a news site?
    This looks like a measure to keep their citizens from posting on the Internet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2012 @ 5:55am

    "As the Access Now piece points out, this suggests the Bangladeshi government doesn’t understand how the Internet works, since a news site without links to other online news stories is doomed to parochialism."

    No, it's doomed to be unworkable because a site with little staff and few expenses likely isn't doing much of it's own reporting, and is entirely depending on mooching source material from third party news sites.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2012 @ 5:57am

    same old story. the people that come up with the restrictions do so because they are from the 'old guars', having virtually no knowledge of how the new technology works. even worse, they dont want to know how the new technology works, preferring to try to stay in the dark ages, rather than progress into the future. trying to think where i have encountered that attitude before? oh! i know! everywhere! in particular, with the entertainment industries and government officials that keep backing them!! bloody fools!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    relghuar, Oct 15th, 2012 @ 6:02am

    Goals of government...

    "It's particularly sad to see Bangladesh trying to restrict the use of a wonderful technology that could do so much to help lift its people from the difficult circumstances in which they live."

    Well, this I'm afraid is quite self-contradictory. You should not assume the goal of ANY government is to lift its people from difficult circumstances. There's a report from ICAN from 2010 (and several more recent arguments http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/08/02/sanctions_cripple_irans_middle_class_not_the_regim e) saying that international sanctions against "enemy" countries actually do a lot of harm to any public movement against the actual regimes in those countries.
    Smart government should take an important lesson from this - the more miserable and restricted the lives of our people are, the less likely they are to challenge our authority.
    I'd say the government of Bangladesh is quite a quick learner...

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2012 @ 6:14am

    At first read this looks like a policy designed to protect existing players (perhaps in old media) by restricting cheap competition (as per the aggregations mentioned above). So it might (?) not be about censorship as such.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Oct 15th, 2012 @ 6:24am

    Governments hate news providers outside of government control and will seek to eliminate them at all cost. What do you think SOPA/PIPA/ACTA were really about?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2012 @ 7:05am

    Poverty breeds stupidity.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Oct 15th, 2012 @ 9:22pm

    Re:

    In the case of the Bangladeshi government it is a case of stupidity breeding poverty.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Androgynous Cowherd, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 11:06pm

    Futile

    Tor + Invisiblog = this "licensing scheme" is doomed to failure.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Hiding out offshore, Oct 18th, 2012 @ 5:04am

    What comes first: stupidity or poverty

    Just look around; it swings both ways. The stupider we get in the US, the poorer we get (this does assume that you believe US/we are becoming more stupid; the poorer side of the equation is pretty had to rebut).

     

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  12.  
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    onlie news, Jul 4th, 2013 @ 4:29am

    news

    Hello friend your post is rely helpful.Thanks for your post.If you want to get bangla
    online new,then please visit our web site.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2013 @ 10:26pm

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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