Living with Censorship

Coming to Bangladesh has given me a greater appreciation for all the freedoms we enjoy in America and elsewhere in the Western World. Sometimes I think we forget just how free things are over there. In the United States, if my cellphone wasn’t working and if I couldn’t get online with my computer, I would just assume that I wasn’t getting any reception and that I had a bad internet connection. I could never imagine, as did actually happen here in Bangladesh, that the government would order the shutdown of cellphone networks and internet access gateways.

In America, when I watch 24-hour news programs like CNN, MSNBC or Fox News, I know they can each have their own bias – but they are allowed to say what they want. I could never imagine that the government would forcibly shut down any one of these stations because one of them said something the government didn’t like. But that’s exactly what happened to CSB – Bangladesh’s only 24-hour news network. After airing footage of anti-government protests, the government shut down the station. (I am linking to the CSB entry in Wikipedia because the government not only took the station off the air, but also shutdown their website as well)

Eventually, I’m sad to say, this kind of censorship changes how you react. So, when I and others were consistently unable to access many Bangladeshi blogs hosted on Blogspot – my first reaction was to assume that this was a new form of government censorship. Blocking blogs is not something new – Pakistan and Turkey do it presently for WordPress.com (and, previously, were also blocking Blogspot.com). But, sometimes – as it seems to be in this case – this was just a technical glitch that affected multiple users on multiple ISPs. Unfortunately, governments that choose to limit free speech usually don’t make press releases stating that they are going to be doing so.

Life would be much easier if every government that wanted to censor or limit free speech would make a press release saying “Oh hai! Im in ur internetz – censorinz ur speech” (and if the press release was worded like that, life would also be much cuter).

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