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Bangladesh creates license regime for websites and online advertising

Bangladesh's cabinet has approved a licensing regime for websites and online advertising. Any individual or organization who wants to set up a website will have to get clearance from the country's yet to be formed National Broadcast Commission. The Commission will also regulate the creation of TV channels, radio stations, and newspapers. Essentially every media organization will now have to register with the government, including individuals (presumably personal blogs). The country's cabinet secretary Shafiul Alam said that the Commission will have the power to clamp down on media organizations who breach guidelines that are outlined in the policy. Alam said that the policy would "[uphold] the national history and the spirit of Liberation War", and would take action against any publication that "distorts national history". Publishing anything that is 'detrimental' to national integrity or 'repugnant' to Bangladesh's Liberation War is a violation of Bangladesh's code of conduct for journalists -- in fact, avoiding these two slights ranks above ensuring accuracy and fairness in reporting. Like in India, Bangladesh's constitution makes room for "reasonable restrictions" on freedom of expression, and retaliatory litigation and website blocks of media organizations is getting more frequent. Over the past few years, Bangladesh has witnessed multiple cases of bloggers and independent journalists being murdered by fundamentalists for writing something deemed against the country or the dominant religion. Until the Commission is set up, new publications will have to be registered with the country's information ministry. The commission will also regulate online advertising, and flat rates for ads…

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