June 6, 2009

No government should impose censorship on internet

Speakers at a roundtable on Thursday said no government should impose surveillance and censorship on internet and block any websites considering people's right to know and free flow of information. Criticizing all forms of surveillance and censorship on internet, they urged the government to protect right to privacy and freedom of expression with an end to all sorts of surveillance and censorship on internet.

With a call for a democratic access to information and data protection, Voice, an NGO, organized the roundtable on 'Access to information: Internet surveillance and censorship versus protection of people's rights' at the National Press Club in the city.

Taking part in the roundtable, Syed Margub Morshed, former chairman of Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, said it would be a futile exercise if anybody wants to block any website to censor or hide any information. “Surveillance and censorship is fundamentally unethical and national security cannot be protected through imposing surveillance and censorship,” he added.

Criticising the government move on mobile re-registration, Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, executive director of Voice, in his keynote paper asked, “How can we be ensured that the information or data given to a prescribed form will not be leaked out or used for other purpose?” He said the interception of email is on the rise and surveillance of mobile telephones has become a regular practice which should be stopped immediately for the sake of right to privacy. Mahmud also criticised the government for blocking some social networking websites like YouTube on March 9, 2009 as the site hosted a recording of a meeting between the prime minister and military officers. Akhtaruzzaman Manju, president of ISP Association, admitted that they were instructed to block some of the websites and some contents were filtered.

Piash Karim, professor of Brac University, said, “Restriction on public information and internet access do not ensure security, but the government move in this regard can impede the democratic process of the society.” The speakers feared that details of individuals which were stored for preparing the National ID card and which were given for re-registration of mobile SIM's could be abused by the government or any other agencies to undermine democratic values.

The Daily Star


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