Salam, the owner of Ekushey TV, was accused of sedition and being in violation of Bangladesh’s Pornography Act, according to reports. Some journalists said in news reports and to CPJ that the arrests were related to a speech by Tarique Rahman, the son of opposition leader Khaleda Zia, which was broadcast by the channel on January 5, 2015.
Salam was arrested at Ekushey TV’s offices in Dhaka on January 6, 2015, alongside Kanak Sarwar, a former senior correspondent for the privately owned broadcaster, according to local news reports. At a press conference in Dhaka after Salam’s arrest, Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu said police had charged the chairman of the channel under the Pornography Control Act of 2012. Police said a woman filed a complaint in November 2014 saying she had been vilified in a news program, according to reports. The police said Ekushey TV, which covers local and national news, aired pornographic images of the woman, news reports said. The channel denies the accusations, reports said.
Salam was also charged with sedition, according to news reports. Authorities claim he confessed to being guilty of sedition in a statement before a judge on January 19, 2015, news reports said.
In March 2015, Sarwar was arrested under the Pornography Act after Salam was said to have confessed to charges brought against him, reports said. According to news reports, Sarwar, who was fired from Ekushey TV in the days after the speech was aired, was later released on bail. In September 2016, authorities issued a warrant for the arrest of another former Ekushey TV correspondent, Mahathir Faruqui Khan, in relation to the broadcasting of Rahman’s speech. Khan had not been arrested as of late 2016, according to news reports.
In the speech aired by Ekushey TV on January 5, 2015 Rahman, the senior vice chairman of opposition leader Zia’s party, called for the toppling of the Sheikh Hasina-led government, reports said. Rahman, who has been in exile since 2008 and faces corruption charges in Bangladesh, is a fierce critic of Hasina’s father, the founder of the country.
Ekushey TV was unavailable in some parts of the country after the airing of Rahman’s speech, according to local and international news reports. Cable operators said they were instructed to take Ekushey TV off the air, according to Agence France-Presse. Authorities denied issuing any order, reports said.
Zia, who had been confined to her office earlier in the year after calling on her supporters to topple the Hasina-led government, accused the government of interrupting Ekushey TV broadcasts.