Self-censorship in using social media in Bangladesh: Does regime structure matter?
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- Master theses 
Democratic governance in Bangladesh faces numerous challenges along with military interruptions since after independence in 1971. Dictatorship and martial laws were well established in the country up until 1991 when democracy was restored with a mass upsurge under the leadership of major political parties. From 1991 to 2006, the country was run by democratic governments with alternation of power between two major political alliances: one is headed by Bangladesh Awaami League (BAL) and another by Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Even after somewhat smooth journey, democratic practices are not flourished, and political institutions are not developed. Most of the democratic institutions in the country are dysfunctional due to high levels of corruption, political conflicts and lack of morality, accountability, transparency, and participation. The absence of political consensus regarding the election management system that resulted serious conflicts and led military intervention again in 2006. The current regime (headed by BAL) started its journey at the end of 2008 through a national election that is considered mostly as free and fair. However, the political crisis comes back with the annulment of care-taker government system in 2011 and thereby the subsequent elections held in 2014 and 2018 become very problematic having serious allegation and lack of participation. The elections produce no results but consolidating the absolute power of ruling party in the absence of active opposition. Democracy in the country starts backsliding and the regime turns towards more authoritarian in nature. Freedom of expression is one of most central pillars of democracy. Social media plays a significant role in providing a platform where citizens can express their political opinion and promote political activities. The availability and easy access to internet, which is also considered as ´liberation technology´ (Diamond 2010), paves the way for the extensive use of social media in political sphere. As an important instrument of democracy social media can also be a great threat for the authoritarian regime. Similar to the oppositions, authoritarian government also cracks down any political activism in any virtual platform like social media with a view to strengthening or holding power. The political condition in Bangladesh is not of any exception. Being in power for more than a decade, the current regime opts every means to suppress oppositions, sending them to prison for very silly cause or even for no reason. Forced disappearance, open murder, thrashing by police or ruling party cadres become quite common where main targets are opposition political leaders and supporters. Government also controls social media with very strong hand enacting different acts, misusing police and other security forces to bring all digital means under surveillances that includes internet, newspaper, television, facebook and other print or electronic media. Government is very successfully able to create a narrative that the aim of such operation is to handle terrorism, extremism, or any anti-state activities. But the reality seems different that is to eliminate any kind of political opponents through sending them either jail or to death. Thus, a self-censorship is developed among the common users of social media. Here I assume that the authoritarian regime does not tolerate any criticism from its opponents or from general people. Social media is open for all and there are many evidence of organizing and promoting successful political actions through using facebook, government feels threatened of losing political control. Due to the several actions against the use of social media, self-censorship is increasing day by day in Bangladesh. While the bloggers and Facebook user regularly criticized the government for their failures or mistakes, recently such activities are observed very less frequent. In this study, I address the status of freedom of social media through evaluating government action against the users of social media.