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Bangladesh gov’t blocks Viber

/ 04:08 PM January 20, 2015

The Bangladesh government has blocked popular online voice and message services Viber and Tango on security grounds.

Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) sent a directive to all carriers in this regard.

Md Sarwar Alam, secretary and spokesperson for BTRC, said the law enforcement and intelligence agencies asked the regulator to take this step.

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The government has specific information that subversive activities, including bomb and arson attacks, were being carried out with directives issued by the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party high-command using Viber and Tango, claimed a police official concerned.

Intelligence agencies have recommended that the government block the popular services temporarily based on proof, the official added.

“We have information that those who had been issuing directives through mobile phones to carry out subversive activities had stopped using their phones and were using Viber and Tango instead,” the policeman said, adding, “We have had proofs of such instructions for carrying out subversive activities in the last two to three days.”

State minister for home affairs Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said Viber and Tango had been blocked based on an intelligence report. “Now criminals and militants interact using these [Viber and Tango] that cannot be monitored widely by our intelligence agencies,” he toldThe Daily Star.

He declined to elaborate on the intelligence report.

A leader of the BNP told the BBC they used to communicate through Viber but are now facing problems as the service has been blocked.

The intelligence agencies can locate any caller when a regular call is made from a mobile phone but they cannot get the location when the caller is using Viber or Tango, claimed an official of the telecom regulator.

A notice circulated by the country’s largest mobile phone operator Grameenphone said, “Grameenphone and the other mobile operations in Bangladesh received a written as well as verbal request from Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission to temporarily restrict access to the messaging service Viber and Tango, citing security reasons.”

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Zahir Ahmed, managing director of BanglaTel, an international terrestrial cable company, told The Daily Star that they had disabled both the services in the wee hours of yesterday and the services would resume only after instructions from the telecom regulator.

Since yesterday, users of Viber who depend on the service to communicate with family and loved ones at home and abroad started having problems making calls and sending messages.

A Viber user wishing anonymity told The Daily Star, “I wanted to wish my sister who lives abroad a happy birthday but the call never went through.”

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TAGS: Bangladesh, Censorship, Messaging, Tango, Viber
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