HC orders unregistered news websites to be shut in 7 days

The High Court has ordered all unregistered and unapproved online news portals to be closed within a week.

The virtual bench of Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Justice Md Kamrul Hossain Mollah issued the order to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, or BTRC, and the Press Council chairman following a hearing of a petition on Tuesday.

In a set of rules on Aug 16, the court asked the authorities why their inaction to make a proper code of conduct for newspapers, news agencies and journalists in accordance with high professional standards following the Bangladesh Press Council Act of 1974 shall not be declared beyond their legal power.

It also asked why it will not order steps to bar unauthorised online news portals from publishing reports and to register the portals that have applied for the authorisation.

The court issued the rules after hearing a writ petition filed by lawyers Rasida Chowdhury Nilu and Zareen Rahman.

Many online news portals published defamatory reports on the death of college student Mosarat Jahan Muniya in April, Rasida had said on that day, but they did not face action due to the absence of a commission stipulated by the law to monitor such news.

The lawyers later filed a supplementary writ petition seeking a ban on the unregistered online news publishers.  

After hearing the supplementary petition, the court ordered the BTRC and the Press Council to report within a week after shutting the news websites down, Rasida said on Tuesday.  

Information Minister Hasan Mahmud had previously promised action against the unregistered online news publishers, but the court was moved before the government took action.