3 telcos decline to disseminate govt ‘political’ texts

HM Murtuza | Published: 00:43, Oct 05,2018 | Updated: 00:48, Oct 05,2018

 
 

Mobile phone operators Grameenphone, Robi and Banglalink have declined to disseminate free text messages containing government slogans on development as the operators found those political.
The three companies made the refusal in a joint letter sent to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission in replying to the commission’s instruction to disseminate nine texts, one in each day starting
from September 29, to their subscribers.
The commission gave the instruction in a letter signed by its senior assistant director Touseef Shahriar on September 29.
The texts, the posts, telecommunications and information technology ministry sent to the commission for dissemination through the mobile phone operators, include slogans ‘glorifying’ prime minister Sheikh Hasina.
Of the four mobile phone operators, only the state-owned Teletalk implemented the order.
The joint letter issued by Grameenphone chief executive officer Michael Foley, Robi managing director and CEO Mahtab Uddin Ahmed, and Banglalink managing director and CEO Erik Aas on Monday stated that the mobile network operators were supposed to disseminate government texts on national emergencies or national security matters.
Neither the commission made the request in the fac of any national emergency nor the requested texts were essential for national security, said the letter.
Mentioning the context, the mobile operators quested whether request for dissemination of bulk texts should be acceptable. Instead, they said that the texts should be sent through commercial agreement only based on terms and conditions.
Mentioning that the texts were political, the operators also said, ‘We generally refrain from distribution of such content since this may result in conflicts between groups advocating different views.’
They also hinted that if such request for the commission was entitled, it would be mandatory for them to disseminate such texts of different political views.
To refrain from creating discrimination between customers, all distribution of this type of content should be done on a neutral basis, meaning that the operators required entertaining text distribution requests from organisations with different views, the joint letter said.
BTRC acting chairman Md Jahurul Haque acknowledged that the commission received the joint letter from the three telecom operators.
He, however, refused to make further comment.
Earlier in June, the telecom regulator asked all mobile operators to disseminate the prime minister’s voicemail greetings to their subscribers on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr, one of the biggest religious festivals of the Muslims, observed on June 16.
Only the state-run mobile phone Teletalk sent the voice SMS to its subscribers.
Grameenphone, Robi and Banglalink, however, said that it was logistically impossible for them to send well over 10 crore voice messages to their clients in around eight hours on the Eid day as they had received the directive to send out the 44-second voice message to all customers at ‘the night before the Eid day, after the closure of business.’
A five-member committee of the commission, formed to dig into the issue, has already furnished its report to the commission, sources said.

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