04/28/2010, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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Government suspends Channel 1, a TV station close to the opposition

by William Gomes
For Bangladesh’s Telecommunications minister, the channel was at fault for “violating rules”. No political consideration went into the decision. A controversial businessman close to former PM Zia’s eldest son owns the station. Human rights activists fear for press freedom in the country.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – The Government of Bangladesh suspended Channel 1, a TV station founded by controversial businessman Giasuddin Al Mamun (picture), who has close ties to Tarique Rahman, eldest son of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party. The authorities took the decision against the station, accusing the latter of “violating rules”. A number of human rights organisations have expressed deep concern for the action and its impact on freedom of the press and freedom of thought.

Telecom Minister Raziuddin Ahmed Raju said that Channel 1 was temporarily suspended because it violated the rules of the broadcasting act. Under Bangladeshi law, TV stations are not allowed to use “transferable” equipment and licences. By contrast, Channel 1 was using equipment owned by other companies, something the minister called “a complete breach of the law”.

For the minister, the government had no partisan motive to suspend the broadcaster. “We did not even consider who the owner is. If we had done so, many other channels would also have been closed."

Channel 1 was established on 1 June 2005; it began official broadcasting on 24 January 2006. It employs 400 people and is the brainchild of Giasuddin Al Mamun, a controversial businessman involved in a number of criminal cases.

Bangladesh has 15 private radio and TV channels. Human rights groups are concerned that the suspension of Channel 1 might negatively affect press freedom and favour censorship.

Channel 1’s director Mazidul Islam said the station provided the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) with all the relevant documents in the case. He blamed Prime Bank, which had bought the equipment on the station’s behalf, for the problem.

However, the BTRC did not buy that argument and decided instead to suspend its licence, temporarily.

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