Bangladesh
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Bangladesh Although Internet access in Bangladesh is not restricted by a nationallevel filtering regime, the state has twice intervened to block Web sites for hosting anti-Islamic content and content deemed subversive. Internet content is regulated by existing legal frameworks that restrict material deemed defamatory or offensive, as well as content that might challenge law and order. OTHER FACTORS Low Medium High Not Applicable Transparency • Consistency • RESULTS AT A GLANCE Filtering No Evidence of Filtering Suspected Filtering Selective Filtering Substantial Filtering Pervasive Filtering Political • Social • Conflict and security • Internet tools • 242 Bangladesh Background The modern Bangladesh state (formerly East Pakistan) was created after the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War when East Pakistan separated from West Pakistan. Following the independence movement, the new Bangladesh state was governed under military rule. In 1990 it reverted back to a democracy, but remained a volatile state. In October 2006 a military-backed interim caretaker government was established in Bangladesh and remained in power until December 2008. On January 11, 2007, the military government declared a state of emergency and enacted the Special Powers Act, banning all political activism. Law-enforcement agencies, including the armed forces and the intelligence agencies, were given the right to preemptively detain anybody who they felt was going to violate the law. The political situation on the ground was tense, confrontational, and chaotic. Fundamental human rights were curtailed during the state of emergency, and at least 319 people died at the hands of legally constituted forces.1 The country returned to democratic rule after an alliance led by the Awami League gained a majority of seats in the December 29, 2008, national election. Since then the situation in Bangladesh has improved, although there was a brief return to instability in February 2009 when the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), a paramilitary law-enforcement agency, staged a two-day mutiny over pay and work conditions and killed more than 70 people—primarily officers.2 The BDR surrendered after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sent tanks to surround the force’s headquarters in Dhaka.3 KEY INDICATORS GDP per capita, PPP (constant 2005 international dollars) 1,288 Life expectancy at birth, total (years) 66 Literacy rate, adult total (percent of people age 15+) 55.0 Human Development Index (out of 169) 129 Rule of Law (out of 5) 1.8 Voice and Accountability (out of 5) 2.1 Democracy Index (out of 167) 83 (Hybrid regime) Digital Opportunity Index (out of 181) 134 Internet penetration rate (percentage of population) 0.4 Source by indicator: World Bank 2009, World Bank 2008a, World Bank 2008b, UNDP 2010, World Bank Worldwide Governance Indicators 2009, Economist Intelligence Unit 2010, ITU 2007, ITU 2009. See Introduction to the Country Profiles, pp. 222–223. ONI Country Profile 243 Today, Bangladesh is a secular democracy, with Islam as its largest religion. With two-thirds of its population working in the agricultural sector, the country is attempting to diversify its economy with industrial development as a priority. Although obstacles to growth exist (widespread poverty, corruption, etc.), Bangladesh’s economy has been on an upward growth trajectory. In 2005, Goldman Sachs included Bangladesh in a list of promising destinations for investment—mentioning its high potential for future growth and for becoming one of the world’s largest economies by 2025.4 Although concerns regarding Bangladesh’s human rights situation have waned since the end of the state of emergency, harassment and intimidation continue. In 2010, a violent crackdown on labor activists, union leaders, and workers who were fighting for the right to organize unions and increase minimum wage became a cause for concern.5 While Prime Minister Hasina has declared a commitment to human rights, including freedom of expression and access to information,6 the government’s commitment to this goal is unclear. For the moment, the media and Internet appear to be free; however, government actions and existing legal frameworks suggest that opposition media are not always tolerated. In April 2010 the government shut down operations of Channel 1, the country’s only privately owned pro-opposition television station, because of an illegal loan arrangement that the channel had made after it had defaulted on a loan.7 Some believe that the government’s decision to pull the plug on Channel 1 was politically motivated. In June 2010, 200 riot police raided the offices of Amar Desh, a critical and pro-opposition newspaper based in Dhaka. Police arrested Mahmudar Rahman, the editor of Amar Desh, who had written...