Druknet denies allegations of blocking Bhutannomics

Bhutannomics which is now back, is convinced that the government was behind the block

Bhutan Telecom Limited’s Druknet, the biggest Internet Service Provider (ISP) in the country denied allegations made by Bhutanomics.com who accused the former of blocking the site in the country.

Though the site is now back after a hiatus and public controversy there are still no answers to who originally blocked the site.

Druknet general manager Tshering Norbu said the ISP has not received any instructions nor issued any directives to block Bhutannomics. “We cannot block a website unless there is a directive from law enforcement agencies and even if there is a directive, we need to conduct an examination and review it before doing so,” he said.

Earlier, a Druknet official had confirmed and told The Bhutanese that Druknet has blocked the site. To this Tshering Norbu said a block occurring without his knowledge and consent is not likely, as the proper procedure is for any such instruction to come through either him or the chief executive officer of Bhutan Telecom.

The GM said, Druknet staffs has access and are able to block a website but not without following the proper procedure.

The GM also said, international anti-spam bodies can also block or take action if the contents are found to be malicious or spam. “Druknet is a part of such international spam filters, so if any of our clients sends a spam mail or infringes intellectual property rights, the whole of Druknet’s IP address can be blocked,” he said.

Head of media relation division, department of information and media, Dawa Penjor also reiterated on the Druknet GM’s statement that as much as the ISP has access to block a site, the webmaster, host of the website or the source can block the site.

“As far as the department is concerned, there has been no directive nor instruction issued by any authority from all levels,” Dawa Penjor said.

He also said that no one can rule out the fact that the webmaster themselves or any other interest groups have intentionally blocked the site.

Nobody is really sure whether the satirical website is operated within the country or the webmaster resides outside Bhutan.

Last week, Cabinet Secretary Dasho Penden Wangchuk said he isn’t aware of any such websites nor does he any idea about the banning of the sites. MoIC’s department of information and media (DoIM) director Kinley T. Wangchuk also said although aware of such websites, the department hasn’t received any directives on taking any action about it. “We haven’t blocked nor banned any websites,” he said.

Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) officials in an email interview also said the authority hasn’t instructed any of the internet service providers (ISPs) to block the website.

However, Bhutannomics maintains its stand. “Inability to view our website only through Druknet confirms the fact that we are banned. The government has no control over Tashi and Samden,” it is pointed out, referring to two of the private ISPs in the country. Bhutannomics is “funded and run independently by a group of freelance writers”, according to information on the website.

The website since its inception had become hugely popular and was seen as an anonymous online forum to criticize the government.

Blogs on the website were always a satirical take on developments or mistakes of the government. It also posted some direct editorial content randomly from local newspapers that it fancied. Not only does it limit its posts to text but even edits and modifies pictures to match their ‘news’.

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