Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission has shut down 3G and 4G mobile data to “prevent rumors and propaganda” from distorting the vote.
The shutting down of mobile data could mean two things. First, it could be a strategy adopted by the state government to prevent rumors and propaganda on the election day. Although, the government does not have a clean record in the past concerning this system. Thus, it could be argued that their motive isn’t genuine.
This takes us back to history. Back in 2015, Bangladesh blocked two popular services, Tango and Viber, on the grounds that anti-government protesters (some of whom have turned violent) are using these chat clients to coordinate their activities. The ban on those messaging apps lasted for sometime then.
Moreover, in August, Bangladesh also clamped down mobile network in a bid to control violence at protests over road safety, but there’s evidence suggesting that it wanted to stop the dissemination of media showing pro-government activists and police attacking protesters.
And again today on December 30th 2018, which is the election day, report from Al Jazeera suggests the Bangladesh government has ordered mobile operators to shut down 3G, 4G services until December 30th midnight.
Although the latest move might help prevent violence and misinformation, but it could also hinder the opposition’s ability to rally support. And Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s administration has been accused of intimidating and imprisoning critics to help maintain power, and this could be another extension of that strategy.