Fighting cyber terrorism in Bangladesh needs clear directives

Fighting cyber terrorism in Bangladesh needs clear directives
Jasimuddin, whose website still contains derogatory comments on PM.

Despite having "very sophisticated" technologies to track down radical Islamists who use online platforms to spread jihadi propaganda and issue death threats to secular people, law enforcers cannot act against the fanatic elements proactively in the absence of clear directives.

Also, the government lacks the political will to go tough on religious bigots, fearing consequences. Exploiting the situation, fundamentalists continue with their hate campaign and even threatening to kill progressive bloggers.

The Daily Star has gathered this through talking to about a dozen independent security experts, top Rab and CID officials and online activists.

"The law enforcement agencies are working in isolation [to tackle cyber stalking]. There is no dedicated organisation with research capability and understanding of jihadi contents. Often, law enforcers cannot intervene accordingly because they fail to comprehend the extent of the threats," said security analyst Maj Gen (retd) Abdur Rashid, also executive director of the Institute of Conflict Law and Development Studies.

The cybercrime issue comes to the fore in the wake of the killing of Avijit Roy on the Dhaka University campus on the night of February 26. The writer-blogger had been receiving death threats online for about a year from religious fundamentalists, including the now-arrested Shafiur Rahman Farabi.

But while the cops sat on the threats on Avijit's life, they took relatively prompt action against the people posting critical comments about political figures. Just two days before Avijit was hacked to death, Chittagong police arrested a union-level leader of Jatiyatabadi Jubo Dal, BNP's youth wing, for uploading a doctored image of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on his Facebook wall.

Iftekhar Mahmud Jipson, Juba Dal president of Shinguli union of Mirsarai upazila, had posted the photo on November 1, 2014, almost a year after Avijit had received his first known death threat from Farabi.

On September 24 last year, a Dhaka court sentenced Tonmoy Mollick, a youth from Khulna, for writing and composing a satirical song about Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Earlier on June 27, 2013, Buet teacher Hafizur Rahman Rana was handed seven years' imprisonment for threatening to kill the PM.

Ironically, a website called jasimuddinrahmani.wordpress.com, dedicated to the teachings of Jasimuddin Rahmani, the "spiritual leader" of rising militant outfit Ansarullah Bangla Team, still contains a video that calls upon the Muslims of Bangladesh to start a jihad against "murtads" (apostates).

Posted on December 29, 2013, the 14:43-minute video is titled "Why murdering [blogger] Rajib was a farz [must] and why murdering his associates will be a farz."

At 2:51 minute of the footage, a voice from the background says: "After the murder of this black sheep Rajib, starting with murtad [apostate] Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina all other ministers and MPs termed him a martyr."

The video was available on the website as of last night.

"If law enforcers scan the internet for threatening contents, how can these websites still remain active?" asked a blogger, requesting anonymity.

According to Sumon Ahmed Sabir, an IT specialist, the whole issue is about setting priority and political will of the government.

He argues that if it were an issue of technical expertise or lack of coordination, the government could not have closed down over 100 websites in the last three months alone for uploading anti-government contents.

"In other words, they [the authorities] are active on cyberspace when it serves their own political agendas, never otherwise," said Sabir, managing director of Bangladesh Computer Emergency Response Team, which deals with computer threats and vulnerabilities.

Supreme Court lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua agrees. "If law enforcers can trace people making derogatory comments in any part of the country about our esteemed political figures, we can safely assume they have the capacity to do so for other threats as well."

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