Plug pulled on Bangladesh network after Zia son speech

Bangladesh authorities ordered a television network off air and arrested its boss Tuesday after it broadcast a speech by the son of the opposition leader, who remains locked in her offices following deadly political violence.

AFP| Last Updated: Jan 06, 2015, 14:47 PM IST

Dhaka: Bangladesh authorities ordered a television network off air and arrested its boss Tuesday after it broadcast a speech by the son of the opposition leader, who remains locked in her offices following deadly political violence.

While police said the detention of the ETV chairman was prompted by its airing of "pornographic" material, a senior editor at the channel dismissed the official explanation as a smokescreen.

The move added to growing tensions in the politically volatile South Asian nation after a spate of deadly violence surrounding the first anniversary of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina`s controversial re-election.

Four people died in clashes on Monday involving supporters of opposition leader Khaleda Zia as well as followers of Hasina and the security forces, exactly 12 months on from the election which was boycotted by 20 opposition parties.

In a bid to ratchet up pressure against the government, supporters of Zia`s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) tried to mount a blockade of public transport in Dhaka on Tuesday but with only partial success.

After calling for protests to topple the government, Zia has been confined to her offices in the capital since Saturday. The gates of her compound have been padlocked under the watch of a phalanx of riot police.

In a televised address to the nation on Monday night, Hasina accused her arch rival of trying to trigger anarchy.

But in a move that was likely to have infuriated Hasina`s government, ETV also broadcast a speech by Zia`s eldest son Tarique Rahman, the two-times former premier`s political heir apparent who is based in London.

Shortly afterwards, cable companies were told to cut off ETV, news editor Majumdar Jewel told AFP. While cameras were still rolling, Jewel said "operators have stopped broadcasting us in most parts of the country".

Police spokesman Masudur Rahman told AFP that Abdus Salam, the owner of what is Bangladesh`s oldest private network, had been arrested after a woman complained ETV had broadcast "pornographic images" of her in an investigative news programme.

But Jewel pointed out that the woman`s complaint was filed nearly two months ago.

"She made the complaint two days after we ran the show on November 6," Jewel said. "We aired some blurred images, which is within the journalistic norms." 

Authorities issued dozens of arrest warrants against Tarique Rahman last month after he questioned the role of the prime minister`s father in Bangladesh`s 1971 independence war against Pakistan.

Hasina`s father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is widely regarded as the country`s independence hero but Zia`s son -- who has been living in exile since 2008 -- claimed that he was in fact a stooge of Islamabad. 

Hasina and Zia, who have between them ruled Bangladesh for most of the last three decades, have a notoriously poisonous relationship and frequently exchange insults and barbs about each others` families.