Bangladesh government employees have been directed to refrain from making ‘negative remarks on social media’.
Bangladesh’s ministry of public administration has issued a circular asking all government officials to refrain from making and sharing negative remarks, audio and video content against important persons within the government on social media.
According to the circular, “baseless, untrue and vulgar information cannot be circulated on social media.”
Social media users should be more cautious while selecting friends and content, the circular warned.
Bangladesh government servants will also be held responsible for ‘misusing social media and making harmful comments from their own accounts’ and action will be taken against them as per existing law, the circular said .
“All will have to refrain from posting or sharing content that goes against the interest of the national spirit and unity,” it said.
“Amid the prevailing situation, no information can be published that hurts religious sentiment and goes against the principles of secularism” , the circular said.
“Citizens will have to refrain from uploading, liking or sharing any comment, post, picture, audio or video that may deteriorate the country’s law and order,” according to the circular.
“No post that can undermine any important national personality or institution in the current situation will be allowed,” it said. The circular has provoked reactions from US and other Western diplomats based in Dhaka.
US ambassador to Bangladesh, Earl R Miller has taken to social media to oppose the circular .
In a tweet he mentioned “”Access to reliable and fact-based information provided by free and independent media is vital to protecting public health everywhere.”
Awami League has hit out at “Miller’s obvious double standards.
” Miller appears to be oblivious to a huge controversy in his own country in response to a White House decision to tighten control of coronavirus messaging by government health officials and scientists. On February 26, when Mike Pence was placed in Charge of messaging, all relevant government officials were directed to clear all statements and public appearance with the office of Vice President Mike Pence,” said Awami League Spokesperson in an interview to Easternlink .
According to a report by CNN, Vice President Mike Pence’s office reversed course in early April after declining for days to allow the nation’s top health officials to appear on the television and discuss the coronavirus pandemic, in what was an attempt to pressure the network into carrying the White House’s lengthy daily briefings in full.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, one of the country’s leading experts on viruses and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, reportedly, told associates that the White House had instructed him not to say anything else without clearance.
Miller’s opposition to the circular found support from UK High Commissioner Robert Chatterton Dickson who said, “Amid the C-19 crisis it is even more important that freedom of expression is upheld and the media can do its job.”
“Healthcare professionals are being silenced and threatened with disciplinary action for speaking out about their work during the coronavirus outbreak, as the Guardian has revealed . Many NHS staff are increasingly concerned that their ability to share stories about their work is being restricted by a clampdown on speaking out publicly,” said Awami League Spokesperson.
“So what is Miller and Dickson trying to prove. The same action in their country is fair and necessary and when such action is taken by our government, it is unfair, undemocratic, and what have you. We can no longer accept these double-standards,” he asked.
A number of other diplomats from different western missions followed the lead from Miller and Dickson and opposed the government circular.
” These western diplomats are behind an orchestrated disinformation campaign against the Hasina government aimed at creating public mistrust and proving her government is a failure,” says Bangladesh-watcher Sukharanjan Dasgupta, author of “Midnight Massacre: The 1975 Bangladesh coup”.
This cabal of western ambassadors now are trying to rubbish the Digital Security Act to ‘uphold freedom of speech.’
” So do they suggest anyone can spread any misinformation, fake news , lies and start anti-minority violence or street riots ? Are they not overstepping their limits , are they not trying to directly interfere in the internal affairs of Bangladesh ?” asked Dasgipta.