Ramadan ban on billboards, posters with photos triggers controversy in Sylhet

Some see the order to remove the billboards and posters with photos as Mayor Ariful’s bid to use religion for more votes  

Bappa MaitraSylhet Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 15 March 2023, 05:58 PM
Updated : 15 March 2023, 05:58 PM

Sylhet City Corporation has touched off a controversy with an order to remove banners, posters, and billboards featuring people’s pictures during Ramadan.  

Some see the order as Mayor Ariful Haque Choudhury’s bid to tap into the religious sensibilities of the Muslims to woo more votes with the next city corporation polls stated for May or June.    

Some others say such an order undermines individual freedom, and the city corporation cannot allow it to happen. 

Politicians in Bangladesh use colourful banners and posters with their pictures to greet citizens on Eid-ul-Fitr marking the end of Ramadan. Companies also run advertisement campaigns to promote their products ahead of the biggest religious festival.    

But Sylhet City Corporation in a newspaper notice on Monday said such advertisements must be removed before Ramadan to “preserve the sanctity” of the holy month of fasting. 

Those who fail to follow the order will risk facing legal action, it added.  

The city corporation publishes the notice every year before Ramadan to prevent the display of “obscene or inappropriate” images, said Md Matiur Rahman Khan, the chief revenue officer of the city corporation. 

Matiur said even the banners or posters of politicians, including the mayor, greeting citizens ahead of Eid are “not legally permissible”. 

The advertisement campaign can be conducted with the approval of the city corporation by paying the appropriate taxes at the designated location, he said.

Faruque Mahmud Chowdhury, president of the Sylhet chapter of citizen’s rights group Sushashoner Jonno Nagorik, said it was not appropriate for the city corporation to issue such a notice. 

Kabir Ahmed, chief editor of online news portal Sylhet Today 24, said Mayor Ariful, a BNP leader, is using the “sanctity of the holy Ramadan” as his “shield”. 

“A top corrupt and accused in former finance minister Shah AMS Kibria murder case is teaching Sylhet residents religious values,” Kabir wrote on Facebook.

Environmental activist Abdul Karim Kim doubts that the city corporation will act without a bias to implement the order. “What does the city corporation mean by any individual?” he questioned in his Facebook post on the notice.

The streets of Sylhet are filled with posters, banners and billboards of politicians who are preparing for the formal election campaign to kick off. 

Ariful’s supporters also put up billboards, banners and posters with his pictures before the council of the BNP’s Sylhet Metropolitan Unit on Mar 10. Other BNP leaders also conducted similar campaigns. 

The mayor’s advertisements, however, could not be seen on Wednesday. Locals said his supporters took down the campaign materials. 

Ariful could not be contacted for comments. A city corporation official said the mayor was sick and taken to Dhaka for treatment.