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Constitutional challenge to Bangladesh’s Facebook ban and sections of the Information Technology Act 2006

by sacw.net, 3 June 2010

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[Text of a notice demanding justice issued today (3 June 2010) by Moin Ghani Barrister on behalf of four lawyers and law students, challenging the Bangladesh Telecom Regulatory Commissions blocking of Facebook on the purported ground of defamation of ‘national and spiritual leaders’ and of hurting religious sentiment, and also challenging certain provisions of the Information Technology Act 2006 as being violations of the fundamental rights to freedom of expression, to be treated in accordance with law and to freedom of assembly and protection of correspondence.]

By Fax/Email/Registered with A/D

3 June 2010

1. Secretary,
- Ministry of Information
- Government of Bangladesh
- Bangladesh Secretariat
- PS Ramna, Dhaka.
- secretary at moi.gov.bd
- moisecretary at yahoo.com

2. Secretary,
- Ministry of Law Justice and Parliamentary Affairs
- Government of Bangladesh
- Bangladesh Secretariat
- PS Ramna, Dhaka.
- info at minlaw.gov.bd

3. Chairman, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC)
- IEB Bhaban (5th,6th & 7th floor)
- Ramna, Dhaka-1000
- btrc at btrc.gov.bd

4. Secretary,
- Ministry of Science and Information and Communication Technology,
- Bangladesh Secretariat,
- PS Ramna, Dhaka.
- Section16 at mosict.gov.bd
- secretary at mosict.gov.bd

Re Notice Demanding Justice

Dear Sirs,

We write on behalf of our clients, 1) Mr. Arafat Hosen Khan, Barrister, of 229/1 West Dhanmondi, Road No. 19, Dhaka, 2) Mr. Kazi Ataul-Al-Osman, LLM, C.D.A. Agrabad R/A, Road-14, House-312, P.S.-Double Mooring, Chittagong, 3) Ms. Rokeya Chowdhury, LLM Student, of Bonosree- 7, Amberkhana, Sylhet-3100 to address you as under:

Our clients are citizens of Bangladesh, and young lawyers and law students, and regular users of the social networking site, Facebook, along with almost 9 lakh other Bangladeshis. They have been shocked to be denied all access to Facebook with effect from 30.05.2010 as a result of the action of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) They have learnt that BTRC has done so on the purported ground that the site contained content which was defamatory of ‘national and spiritual leaders’ and also hurtful to religious sentiment. Further press reports indicated that BTRC had admitted in a letter to Facebook Inc. that it had “… already initiated a process to block the entire site [facebook.com], since blocking of the partial links for the groups have not been a success here in Bangladesh”.

Our clients believe that Facebook facilitates the sharing of knowledge, information and that Facebook users in Bangladesh, especially the young generation, through formation of groups, pages and event organization and wide circulation have built a strong network in engaging with national and international issues of public concern.

It is submitted that BTRC’s said action of blocking the website is wholly without lawful authority inasmuch as it arbitrary, capricious and without any objective basis. It is further submitted that sections 46, 56, and 57 of the Information and Communications Technology Act, 2006 (Act 39 of 2006) is illegal, arbitrary, and violative of Articles 38, 39, and 43 of the Constitution.

It is submitted that the said action of blocking access to Facebook is a violation of the fundamental rights to freedom of expression of our clients, and of all citizens, as guaranteed under Article 39 of the Constitution, which includes the right to receive and impart information, without any arbitrary interference, as well as the right to be treated in accordance with law, and the right to protection of correspondence as guaranteed under Articles 31, and 42 respectively.

In these circumstances, we are instructed to call upon you, as we hereby do, to immediately take steps to provide unrestricted access to the website Facebook as contained in the url http://www.facebook.com within 24 hours from the receipt of this notice, and to report compliance to the undersigned, failing which we have instructions to move an application to secure the fundamental rights of our clients under Article 102 of the Constitution, for the costs and consequences of which you shall be liable.

Yours sincerely,

Moin Ghani

Advocate

Supreme Court of Bangladesh