BTRC backtracks on blocking unregistered news portals


The telecom regulator had closed down several top-tier mass media sites by mistake

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) kept several news sites of Bangladesh blocked for over one-and-a-half hours on Tuesday.

However, it unblocked all the registered news publishing websites in the evening.

“The sites are now back. The telecom regulator started shutting down the unregistered news portals based on a list, but it had some wrong information,” Post and Telecommunications Minister Mustafa told media in the evening.

As soon as the process began, the regulator noticed that a number of top-tier news sites had got blocked. That’s why it paused the process, said the minister.
In the latest development, the virtual bench of Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Justice Md Kamrul Hossain Mollah, in the evening, allowed two more weeks to comply with the High Court (HC) order to shut down unregistered online portals across the country.
The court passed the order after hearing a petition filed by the BTRC.

Earlier, BTRC Vice-chairman Subrata Roy Maitra had said the BRTC had started shutting down all unregistered online news portals from 4pm.

The country currently has 92 registered online news portals. The telecom regulator ran into a problem by closing down the registered mass media websites for several hours, leading to concerns.
Tuesday’s move by BTRC came after the High Court on September 14 directed it and the Bangladesh Press Council (BPC) to close down the unregistered news portals within seven days.
The court had also asked them to submit a report after implementing the order within seven days of getting the written copy of the order.

Earlier on May 5, a legal notice was sent to the mass media asking them to formulate an ethical code of conduct for publishing any news, including sensitive news.

The notice was sent to the secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the chairmen of BTRC and BPC. As they did not respond to the notice, lawyers Jarin Rahman and Rashida Chowdhury filed a writ petition in the High Court.

On August 16, the High Court issued a rule asking why an order should not be passed directing that registration of online newsportals which were under consideration be provided and the other unapproved and unregistered ones be closed.

The rule also sought an explanation as to why an ethical code of conduct would not be formulated for improving the professional standard of journalists, newspapers and other media.

The court had also sought to know why directives should not be given regarding steps to be taken toward forming a Broadcasting Commission as per the National Broadcasting Policy 2014.

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