The government early yesterday halted the broadcast of private channels Diganta TV and Islamic TV on allegations of airing provocative programmes to whip up public sentiment.
The two channels were taken off the air around 4:30am.
Mahbubul Alam, executive director of Diganta Television, said, “A joint team of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, and the Detective Branch of police conducted a drive at Diganta office between 4:00am and 4:30am.”
The officials, acting upon government orders, directed the channel's broadcast department to stop airing programmes temporarily, Mahbubul said.
During the drive, they seized the uplink module, a transceiver used for both telecommunication and data communication applications.
Mahbubul expressed surprise at the government move, but did not say whether the channel would take any legal action.
No official of the Islamic Television could be reached over the phone despite repeated attempts.
Home Minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir said, “The two channels have violated the conditions on which they obtained licences.”
Hinting at the channels' coverage of Sunday's Hefajat rally in the capital, he said the two stations had been airing “provocative” scenes to hamper peace in the society.
On Sunday, the home ministry, based on law enforcement and intelligence reports, wrote a letter to the information ministry to move against Diganta TV and Islamic TV.
At a press briefing yesterday, Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu said, “Diganta along with one or two other TV channels had been spreading rumours by airing provocative and irresponsible programmes, which is a serious crime.”
So the information ministry was compelled to request the home and telecom ministries, he added, to take action against the two media houses as per the law of the land.
Inu said an investigation had been going on and stern action would be taken afterwards.
BTRC Chairman Sunil Kanti Bose said, “Both the TV channels' spectra were seized as they violated some conditions of 'No Objection Certificates', broadcasting permissions, and censor act.”
On its website, Diganta TV had urged “people, who believe in freedom of speech and free flow of information, to protest the government decision”.
The website of the Islamic TV was also active last night.
Diganta TV is a concern of Diganta Media Corporation, owned by Jamaat-e-Islami leader Mir Quasem Ali, a war crimes suspect now on the run.
Islamic TV was founded by late Sayeed Eskander, younger brother of the BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia.
This is the fourth instance of government forcing private TV channels to go off the air.
Ekushey Television was shut down by the BNP-Jamaat government in 2002, CSB News by the military-backed caretaker government in 2007, and Channel One by this government in 2010.