Bangladesh slows internet ahead of election

Bangladesh’s authorities have severely restricted internet services across the country in an effort to fight “propaganda” ahead of Sunday’s general election, an official said.

At the end of an election campaign marked by deadly violence, internet services were slowed across the country with 3G and 4G services suspended for several hours, a Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) official said Friday.

“We asked telecom operators to halt 3G and 4G services temporarily on Thursday night. We have done it to prevent propaganda and misleading content spreading on the internet,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

He said higher speed internet services resumed on Friday morning after a 10-hour blackout, but could be suspended again later in the day.

Bangladesh will hold a parliamentary election on Sunday with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina seeking a record fourth term in power.

She is being challenged by an alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) which says thousands of its activists have been arrested in a nationwide crackdown during the campaign.

BNP leader Khaleda Zia was jailed for 17 years on graft charges this year and the party says its candidates were attacked to prevent them from campaigning.

Shut out by mainstream media, the BNP has been reduced to social media such as Facebook to lobby for votes.

Its leaders have posted series of videos to canvass support from Bangladesh’s 100 million voters ahead of the election.

Earlier this month, the BTRC blocked the BNP website along with 53 news websites and portals including several pro-BNP sites saying they spread “obscene” and malicious content.

Bangladesh, which has more than 92 million internet users, has a history of blocking websites and key social media such as Facebook and YouTube.

In August 2016, the BTRC blocked 35 websites including several popular among opposition supporters.

© Agence France-Presse

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