Two Bangladeshi TV stations off-air after fatal fire

New York, February 26, 2007—At least three people were killed and more than 100 people were injured today as a fire tore through a Dhaka office building housing private television stations NTV and RTV and Bengali-language newspaper Amar Desh. The cause of the fire was unclear.

The two news channels were off the air this evening due to extensive damage to their office and equipment, and it is not known when they can resume broadcasts, according to Bangladeshi news reports. The newspaper moved to a different office and expected to publish an abbreviated version of its usual sixteen pages tomorrow.

All three media outlets are owned by Bangladesh Nationalist Party politician Mosaddek Ali Falu, a close associate of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. Falu was arrested on February 5 as part of an anti-corruption drive initiated by the interim government.

“We express our condolences for those killed in Dhaka today and we urge a speedy investigation into how the fire started,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.

The fire started at around 10:30 am and raged for several hours as fire crews rescued dozens of people trapped inside the multi-story building, which also houses a bank, an insurance company, and other commercial offices.

Two of the dead were employees of the Bangladesh Steel and Engineering Corp, which owns the building, according to Associated Press. The third was a cleaner for NTV, according to Dhaka-based newspaper The New Nation.

The Home Ministry has launched an investigation into the cause of the fire, according to news reports.