Reporters Without Borders has called on the interim government to reverse its decision to suspend the country’s only privately-run 24-hour news channel CSB News for a period of seven days.
The worldwide press freedom organisation said it appeared the decision could be linked to the channel’s broadcasts of footage from anti-government demonstrations. "The closure of this channel looks suspect in the current climate," it said.
The Bangladesh Telecommunications Regularity Commission (BTRC) yesterday ordered a seven-day suspension of Chrono Satellite Broadcast (CSB) News, saying that a forged document had been found in its file applying for a frequency in October 2006. Officials had apparently falsified a letter to fit in with the deadlines set by the authorities.
"Why deprive viewers of a source of independent news on the basis of the suspicion of a forged document?" asked Reporters Without Borders.
"But this decision could be linked to broadcasts of demonstrations, despite requests from the authorities not to." The Daily Star has reported that some members of the government accuse the channel of inciting students to demonstrate in Dhaka.
Officials from the BTRC, accompanied by police, went to the channel’s offices early evening yesterday to stop it from broadcasting. The authorities gave CSB seven days to explain the circumstances in which the licence was granted. Failing that, the licence will be suspended under the Telecommunications Act of 2001. CBS was launched in February 2007 on the Telstar 10 satellite.
"CSB News must be allowed to resume broadcasting while awaiting the regularisation of its final permission, Reporters Without Borders said, "If ultimately the channel is suspended, which we fear will be the case, it will threaten all the interim government’s efforts to allow greater freedom to the electronic media".
"Moreover we repeat our call on the government and the army to once again allow political talk shows," the organisation said. The information ministry on 25 August called on several broadcasters, including CSB News, not to put out remarks hostile to the government.