Bangladesh to shut Facebook pages for blasphemy

Originally published by AFP

DHAKA — A Bangladesh court on Wednesday ordered authorities to shut down five Facebook pages and a website for blaspheming the Prophet Mohammed, the Koran and other religious subjects, a lawyer said.

Judges at the high court in Dhaka ordered the telecommunications regulator, home ministry officials and police to block the offending pages immediately.

"These pages contain disparaging remarks and cartoons about Prophet Mohammed, the Muslim holy book of Koran, Jesus, Lord Buddha and Hindu gods," Nawshad Zamir, a lawyer of the petitioner who brought the case, told AFP.

"They mostly targeted the prophet and the Koran. These pages hurt the sentiments of the country's majority Muslim population and the followers of other religions. Some of the cartoons are very close to pornography."

The name of the website is not known.

Judges passed the order after a joint petition by a Dhaka University teacher and the head of a law school.

It is the first time a Bangladesh court has moved to shut down Facebook pages on charges of hurting religious sentiment. A similar case about allegedly offensive content is also in process in neighbouring India.

Bangladesh authorities appear to be cracking down on Internet use, with a student arrested in a remote village in January for allegedly posting obscene remarks on Facebook about the father of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

In the same month, a 29-year-old Bangladeshi was sentenced in absentia to six months in jail after posting a Facebook message that appeared to wish for the prime minister to die in a car accident.