The Bangladesh government ordered suspension of high-speed internet services in the country a day before national elections were held last week on December 30. The suspension was ordered to “prevent rumours and propaganda surrounding the vote,” Zakir Hussain Khan of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission said, per Reuters. The order was meant to be effective until Sunday midnight.
The suspension was lifted two hours after polling ended at 4 pm on Sunday, but internet was slowed down again at 9 pm that evening again until further orders, per bdnews24.com. 3G & 4G services were finally restored on the morning of January 1 – after a suspension that lasted 37 hours. People were unable to browse the internet, stream videos, or upload photographs during this period.
Internet services were intermittently suspended even before the elections – on December 27, the Bangladesh government slowed down the internet by suspending 3G & 4G, and restored it after 10 hours on Friday morning. This shutdown was reportedly ordered after the BTRC members told representatives of the International Internet Gateway in a meeting that social media sites, especially Facebook, would be blocked if necessary.
The Awami League’s Sheikh Hasina returned for her third term as prime minister after her party swept the polls, winning 288 out of 300 seats in the Bangladesh parliament.
Journalists accused under new Digital Security Act
Yesterday, a journalist was arrested and another is on the run after a local government official filed a case against them for publishing “false information” about election irregularities. Hedayet Hossain Mollah, a local correspondent of the Dhaka Tribune, was arrested and accused under the Digital Security Act, for reporting that more votes were cast in Khulna region than the number of people on the electoral rolls. The other journalist Rashidul Islam, accused under the same act, is a staff reporter for Manab Zamin, and on the run.
The Digital Security Act was passed by the Bangladesh government in October, and reportedly clamps down on free speech and press freedom in the country.