The Human Rights Watch/ Committee to Protect Journalists/ Reporters Sans Frontiers
You might be aware that www.theeasternlink.com has emerged as one of the fastest-growing news and current affairs website in South Asia since it started its journey on 21 March 2020. You might have taken note of the scores of HRW-origin stories, received by us from your press office, has been turned into stories by our journalists, because we attach huge value to human rights coverage.
Run by a small group of professionals under my guidance , this website has broken several big stories and earned the reputation for a fearless variety of on-your-face journalism . We have reported without fear or favour but with no malice towards anyone and that has included some attacking stories against the Indian government and powers that be. An example : https://theeasternlink.com/for-adanis-ambanis-business-as-usual-with-china/
Our coverage of the insurgency in Myanmar’s Rakhine , the conflict in the Himalayas between India and China and of several key developments in Bangladesh has been second to none.
Following a series of stories about a reported regime change operation in Bangladesh involving a ‘pro-Pakistani adviser of Hasina government, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory , on instruction from the country’s leading intelligence agency , has blocked access to www.theeasternlink.com and other sires like www.thelookeast.in , resulting which nobody in Bangladesh, except the government monitors, are able to access our site and and exercise their right to access of credible information.
The double-standards are evident when we find the government is acting on the information provided in our stories and enquiries on the regime change plot have been initiated by DIG(Confidential) of Bangladesh Police which has asked the Bangladesh Deputy High Commission to check on the travel to Kolkata of some figures of the reported plot.
So it is surprising that when some elements in the Bangladesh administration are taking action on the report, that was sourced to Bangladesh intelligence agencies, rather seriously, some other elements in the administration are trying to block access of tens of thousands readers of our website to our quality reporting. We first discovered that our site has been blocked from 16th July 2020, the lookeast.in reported their site has been blocked from 18th July 2020.
It is expected that the national security logic will be extended to justify the internet censorship , which is sometimes necessary and sometimes an obvious excess, let us inform you that while our report on a plot , and subsequent followup stories , to destabilise the elected government has provoked a blanket ban on our website and few others in India , incendiary material on the social media showcasing anti-government figures calling for a ‘major change’ in the country have been allowed a free run and attempts have been made to shield a retired lieutenant general interviewed by a social media outlet by diluting charges against him from possible sedition to moral turpitude by systematically circulating stories about his sexual escapades. Interestingly , the government has not formally contradicted a single of our story , issued contraradwandiction or clarification which we would have been happy to carry prominently as part of our commitment to allow right to reply.
The whole effort has been block access and from time to time pressurized Indian agencies to put pressure on our management to desist from reporting ‘anything sensitive’ on Bangladesh. This is a pernicious culture of information and perception management practicised by some less than democratic governments in Asia and elsewhere in the world , against which HRW and other likeminded organisation, many of which we don’t have direct access to, have raised their voice. That it is now evident in Bangladesh and some other regions in South Asia is truly unfortunate.
We will be obliged if you can raise the issue with the Bangladesh government and get them to unblock access to our website www.theeasternlink.com and another website from the our city Calcutta, www.lookeast.in. Imposing internet censorship at the drop of a hat does not speak much about the confidence of a government that seemingly feels threatened by one or two exposes and goes for an overkill. And when they act against a website like ours which have always been bullish about Bangladesh’s many achievements, it becomes clear that culture of tolerance is coming to an end. But if anyone thinks we will take this lying down, there are not aware of our commitment to press freedom and democracy.