People from Bangladesh have found Istishon website, a popular secular blogging platform, inaccessible.
Founder and Editor of the blog Nur Nobi Dulal on Monday said that many users from different parts of the country had not been able to access the website since Sunday night.
He urged the government to withdraw the “ban” immediately, saying such move would strengthen the writers.
No authorised officer of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission was found for comment on the matter.
However, a message from the gateway operator reads: “BTRC blocked the domain and our server IP. We can't host your website...”
The BTRC last month blocked 35 websites, mostly little-known news portals spreading propaganda, on government orders.
Dulal who left the country recently in the face of threats by Islamist extremists in a Facebook post Monday afternoon condemned the restriction imposed by the government, and mentioned that freedom of expression and right to information are the basic rights of the people.
[caption id="attachment_18238" align="aligncenter" width="720"] A screenshot of the message received by the website administrator Monday
Instead, he demanded closure of the websites and Facebook pages spreading religious extremism.
In the last couple of years, militants linked to Ansarullah Bangla Team (now Ansar Al Islam) hacked to death over a dozen of secular bloggers, publishers, LGBT rights activists and war crimes trial campaigners.
A popular writer of Istishon blog, Niladri Chatterjee or Niloy Neel, was hacked to death in his flat at Dhaka's Goran on August 7. Ansar Al Islam claimed responsibility for the murder, terming Niloy an enemy of Allah and the Prophet (pbuh).
Among the other victims was science writer Avijit Roy, founder of Mukto-Mona blog that promotes secularism, who was hacked to death while his wife Rafida Ahmed Bonya critically injured in a machete attack by the members of al-Qaeda affiliate Ansar Al Islam in Dhaka on February 26 last year.
Two of Avijit's publishers were also attacked in October. One of them, Faisal Arefin Dipan, was killed inside his Jagriti publishing office at Aziz Super Market.
The unofficial ban on Istishon blog has drawn severe criticisms from the activists and writers.
Current Editor of Mukto-Mona blog Bonya has also strongly criticised the closure of Istishon blog. In a Facebook post Monday, she said alleged that the government had been blocking secular websites in a systematic way.
"They arrest, harass and jail bloggers, writers, journalists and activists in the name of the ‘semi-blasphemy’ law called ICT Act 57. And of course they kill all the suspected militants in ‘crossfire’ in the name of justice.
"But this same government stayed silent when the secular bloggers got threatened and were stabbed to death one by one by the Islamic militants. They [government] were forced to act only after the heinous massacre in the Gulshan restaurant by these militants."
She said that the progressive activists and secularists in Bangladesh were now facing threats from both the Islamic militants and the government. "This puts us between quite a rock and a hard place," the blogger said.
Expatriate blogger Farzana Kabir Khan also demanded that the ban on Istishon blog be withdrawn immediately.
She said that the Bangladeshi government was pretending that they are against Islamist terrorists and fundamentalists, but on the other side, they have taken stance against freedom of speech.
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