Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bangladesh court ask to remove anti-Islamic contents from Facebook


SALEEM SAMAD

BANGLADESH HIGH Court has ordered the authorities on Wednesday to take out the anti-Islamic contents from the popular social media network Facebook.

In a judgment Justice Mirza Hossain Haider and Muhammad Khurshid Alam Sarkar issued the interim order to take off five pages from Facebook and a website for blasphemy, hurting religious sentiments.

The court held the unidentified persons as responsible for blasphemy and also ordered to investigate and identify the person behind the wrong-doings.


The judges said that the Facebook contain sensitive cartoons and pictures criticizing Islam and directed the authorities to immediately block the pages, locators and links of social networking website Facebook.

Bangladesh has an estimated 2.5 million Facebook users and ranks 55th, according to international media monitoring site SocialBaker.com.

The judgment was made after two teachers filed a writ petition on Wednesday and says it has violated the constitution in a majoritarian Sunni Muslim nation of 150 million population.

Batool Sarwar of Dhaka University and M. Nurul Islam, principal of Dhaka Centre for Law and Economics, said in their petition that certain Facebook pages, links and locators are showing cartoons and pictures that hurts the religious sentiment of the Muslims, which is against the constitution of republic of Bangladesh.

Responding to the petition, the high court also asked the government to explain in four weeks why it should not be directed to conduct an enquiry and punish the people who are responsible for publishing such “sensitive” cartoons and pictures.

The relevant ministries of home secretary, information secretary, inspector-general of police and the telecom regulatory body Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) have been asked to implement the order.

Earlier in May 2010, Facebook become controversial after Bangladesh followed Pakistan in blocking access to Facebook after satirical images of the prophet Muhammad and the country's leaders were uploaded. One teenage offender Mahbub Alam Rodin was arrested after his online ID was traced by the elite anti-crime unit.

Incidentally Bangladesh does not have laws to punish social media offenders, nor does it have adequate laws to curb cyber crime.


Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow, is Bangladesh based award winning investigative reporter. He specializes on Islamic militancy, forced migration, good governance, press freedom and elective democracy. He was detained and tortured in 2002 and later expelled from Bangladesh in 2004 for whistle-blowing on the safe sanctuary offered to the Jihadists who fled during Anglo-US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Ending his life in exile in Canada he has recently returned home after six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com