Bangladesh to introduce pre-registration rules for news websites in 2022

Bangladeshi online news websites will have to register before their launch from next year, Information Minister Hasan Mahmud has said.

Many others followed in the footsteps of bdnews24.com after it introduced internet-only news publishing to Bangladesh one and a half decades ago, but not all of them are following common journalistic rules and principles.

In 2020, the government moved to register online newspapers in a bid to ensure professional journalism. Over 250 news portals received permission for registration.

Now the new decision on pre-registration aims to bring order to the digital news media in the country, the minister said on Wednesday at a programme of the Bangladesh Secretariat Reporters Forum or BSRF on Wednesday.

“We’ve kept registration ongoing for the ones that are already online. But we set off the registration protocol much later.”

“A newspaper must issue a declaration, or else they can’t go to publication. The same should apply to online publishers,” Hasan Mahmud said.

“So we will take the online registration process to the standardised level. We’ve held discussions that online portals will have to register before the start of news service.”

The minister also said that IPTV channels still broadcasting news ignoring government directives will be shut down. IPTV is the streaming of television content over internet protocol networks.

“IPTVs are a new media across the world. It will not be appropriate to shut them down. But such channels shouldn’t be allowed to proliferate in a runaway fashion. So we’ve begun the registration process for IPTVs. The ones that are actually willing to stay on will be registered.”

Hasan Mahmud added that any IPTV with a name similar to that of a cable TV channel will not be allowed to register.

He said IPTV microphones will have to be different from those of TV channels so that people at events can recognise them easily.

Foreign channels with advertisements have been off the air in Bangladesh since Oct 1 following government directives. The minister said they will be available once they send clean feeds.

“Cable operators have told me that the foreign channels will send clean feeds now. I said we will let them broadcast once they do it. Why did they not send clean feeds for a long time? It is their [foreign channels] responsibility to send clean feeds. If they do it for other countries, why would they not send it here?

The minister said the country’s mass media will benefit from the move and the decision was taken in the “best interest of the country”.