The youtube farce

Posted in Rights by jrahman on March 10, 2009

Marxs is said to have quipped that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.  Farce is the word that came to my mind when I heard that the government has banned youtube in Bangladesh.  According to the officials, the ban is in national interest.   Retired brigadier general Zia Ahmed, now the chairman of the state telecommunication regulator BTRC, told BDnews24, “The government can take any decision to stop any activity that threatens national unity and integrity.” 

So, how exactly was the national unity threatened?  I am guessing this has something to do with the recording of a confidential meeting between the PM and army officers at Senakunjo on 1 March.  These recordings have been widely distributed over the net.  It has been printed by a number of newspapers.  The recordings should never have been leaked.  But it’s rather stupid to ban youtube (and esnips) because of the leak.  

The right approach would have been to find and punish those who leaked the recording.  Given our practicalities, perhaps the right approach couldn’t have been taken.  But the 2nd best approach would have been to ignore the recordings altogether.  The reader/listener can judge for themselves, but the impression I got from the recording was that the PM handled a very delicate situation extremely deftly.  Maybe I am in the fringes with that reaction.  But consider this.  For every person who heard the recording, there will be many more who will hear about the banning of youtube (which cannot be enforced anyway) and wonder what the government has to hide.  Simply ignoring the recording could actually work to the government’s political benefit.  Banning it, in addition to being a stupid policy decision, looks like bad politics.

Of course, it could be that the BTRC acted on its own without the government’s prompting.  If that is so, then the government cannot reverse the ban fast enough.  Again, the ban is a stupid policy decision that is also bad for the government politically.

Either way, the decision is a farce.  And what has this to do with history repeating?  Well, the first government to start banning things in Bangladesh was also a government with massive majority.  The tragedy was when its successors continued to ban things.  But banning youtube, that’s a farce.


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  2. Hasan said, on March 11, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    I saw the recording in the blogs. Did not bother to listen. This farce of banning youtube has got me interested. I might listen to them now.
    I am certain that people inside Bangladesh will have no difficulty in getting their hands to the recording if they want.

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