The authorities in Bangladesh have blocked access to Sweden-based investigative journalism website Netra News after it published a report on a corruption allegation against an influential Bangladeshi minister, publishers of the website said in a statement.
Netra News, launched on December 26, was blocked in Bangladesh within 72 hours of its publication of an investigative story about Obaidul Quader, the Bangladeshi minister for road transport and bridges.
The story — which is based on a tip from a whistle-blower and photos collected from Obaidul Quader’s verified Facebook profile — raises questions about the minister’s collection of luxury watches from expensive brands of Rolex, Louis Vuitton, and Ulysse Nardin.
Readers in Bangladesh first contacted Netra News publishers after they could not access the website, netra.news, without using a VPN. Netra News has also been able to independently verify that its website is blocked by the Bangladeshi authorities.
‘This affront to press freedom is unfortunately neither new nor surprising. With this brazen act of censorship, Netra News joins an increasingly long list of websites which include Al Jazeera English (Qatar) and The Wire (India) which were blocked in Bangladesh for reporting on topics that irked the upper echelons of power in the country,’ said Netra News editor-in-chief Tasneem Khalil.
Mustafa Jabbar, the post and telecommunication minister, said how could he have the record which website was shut down. He rather wanted to know from where the website was being operated.
After being informed that the site carried a story on a minister and his wristwatches, Mustafa Jabbar said, ‘It can be shut down if it spreads this type of rumours.’
He, however, referred to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission for this but the Netra News accused the Department of Telecommunications which is under the ministry of post and telecommunication.
Netra News was set up to tackle the challenge of media censorship in Bangladesh that prevents the publication of reports critical of the government, the ruling party, the state machinery, and other powerful actors in politics and business.
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