March 28, 2023

Disinformation Risk Assessment: The Online News Market in Bangladesh

Key Takeaways1/3

All 33 domains in the sample were classified as medium-risk or high-risk.

The Global Disinformation Index (GDI) is proud to present a new report assessing the disinformation risks in the Bangladeshi media market. This report is the result of research led by GDI in collaboration with Digitally Right Limited, conducted from July through December of 2022. 

As consumers and media organisations alike rapidly shift from traditional news formats to digital platforms, the risk of circulating disinformation — knowingly or not — has increased all over the world. Though disinformation has always been a problem in media, the internet has enabled disinformation to spread further and faster than ever before, making it critical for news outlets, readers and advertisers alike to understand their risk. GDI’s risk rating methodology provides key insights for all stakeholders to mitigate their disinformation risk and feel confident in the information they fund, produce and consume. 

The following report presents our findings regarding disinformation risk in Bangladesh’s media market, based on a study of 33 news domains. The sample was defined based on the sites’ reach (using each site’s Alexa rankings, Facebook followers, and Twitter followers), relevance and the ability to gather complete data for the site.


Bangladesh boasts one of the largest and fastest growing populations in the world, counting just over 169 million citizens as of early 2023. Similar to its neighbours in Southeast Asia, this rapid growth has fueled a parallel rise in the size and scope of the country’s media market. 

Since Bangladesh gained its independence in 1972, print, television and radio experienced meteoric growth from a handful of organisations in the 1970s to thousands of media outlets in the 2010s. While television and print media still make up the lion’s share of news consumption among the population, digital media is poised to soon overtake traditional media as a younger and more internet-savvy citizenry migrates online. Top Bangla news outlets have been responding to the rise of the internet by creating multimedia content to better engage this emerging audience, but with internet penetration still comparatively low at 31.5% — or about 52.58 million internet users — as of January 2022, the digital media field is still developing. 

Bangladesh’s emerging digital media market has seen strong gains in advertising and revenue in recent years. In 2023, the digital advertising market is projected to be valued somewhere between US $330.8 million and US $400 million, with the bulk of spending in search advertising. External projections place the growth rate of digital advertising spending at more than 10 percent annually as of 2022.

Despite growing demand for diverse, robust digital content, the Bangladesh online media market is constrained by state influence. In recent years, the government has taken drastic actions to arrest, prosecute and otherwise influence media outlets seen as hostile to the government or its values through the 2018 Digital Security Act. Despite mass protests following controversial high-profile prosecutions under the law, Bangladesh has doubled down on the law and proposed new measures to regulate social media and other online content even further. 

As a result of these crackdowns, Reporters Without Borders has ranked Bangladesh 162nd out of 180 countries for press freedom in 2022, a 10-point decline from 2021 and an 18-point decline from 2020.


The findings for Bangladesh’s news domains in this sample show that 17 out of 33 sites were classified as medium-risk and 16 out of 33 sites were high-risk. No sites in the study were assessed to have minimum-risk, low-risk, or maximum-risk. 

The overall average score for domains in Bangladesh was 58 out of 100, with 0 indicating no disinformation risk and 100 indicating maximum risk. This score translates to a moderate level of disinformation risk for the overall media market. Despite concentrated medium and high-risk scores overall, many of the low scores came from weak journalistic policies and practices rather than content.

The domains in this study achieved relatively high scores in our Content pillar with an average score of 86, but severe shortcomings in editorial checks and balances caused poor performance in our Operations pillar, with an average score of 29. Taken together, operational shortcomings represent the most problematic areas in this media market for disinformation to seep in and take root.

High Content scores show that the domains sampled typically produced unbiased information, avoided targeting minorities or vulnerable groups, practised authorship transparency, provided clear and informative headlines and ledes that matched article content and rarely engaged in sensationalism. 

Low Operations scores, however, display that all of the domains in this sample were unclear about their funding structures, sources and byline policies and accuracy policies. Many domains fared slightly better on ownership, comment policies and editorial guidelines indicators, but the extremely low scores of the other indicators offset these moderate gains. 


The overall disinformation risk of Bangladesh’s media market is moderate and fairly even across all domains, but the good news is that all of these sites - and those not included in the study - can significantly reduce their overall disinformation risk by addressing key operational shortcomings and continuing to maintain strong content standards.

Compared to other countries, Bangladeshi media perform very well in producing low-risk content and avoiding many of the pitfalls of disinforming narratives. If these domains can continue to adhere to and improve upon universal journalistic standards, there is lots of reason for optimism in increasing these scores and vastly reducing disinformation risk.

It is clear that the biggest challenge for curbing disinformation risk in Bangladesh is addressing key editorial and operational issues. The extremely low scores in this area offset strong performance in our Content pillar and represent the lion’s share of risk in this market. Luckily, many of these issues can be fixed fairly quickly and easily by creating and publishing clear, publicly accessible policies and disclosures in the following areas:

  • Beneficial ownership and funding information
  • A corrections policy that guarantees correction publication for any errors or inaccuracies in all content, including the circumstances under which the correction is made
  • A bylines policy that ensures identity of authors is featured on articles and explains circumstances under which it would not be
  • Guidelines for pre-publication fact-checking 
  • Sourcing guidelines that clearly show outlets source elements used in the content and explain the circumstances under which anonymisation is appropriate

Read the full report for GDI’s full analysis and learn more about what Bangladesh’s newsrooms can do to minimise the risk of exposing their readers to disinformation.

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