Salam, the owner of Ekushey TV, and Sarwar, a former senior correspondent for the privately owned broadcaster, have been 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 the station’s offices in Dhaka on January 6, 2015, according to local news reports. At a press conference in Dhaka after his 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 the station’s owner, Salam, was said to have confessed to charges brought against him, reports said. CPJ was unable to determine if Sarwar was formally charged under the act. Sarwar was also charged with sedition, according to news reports. After Sarwar’s arrest, members of the Jatiya Press Club issued a statement expressing concern over the government’s role in undermining independent media in the country, according to 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.
Sarwar was fired in the days after the speech was aired, reports said. The broadcaster has not commented in English-language reports on the reason for his dismissal.
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.
CPJ was unable to determine the state of Salam or Sarwar’s health. The journalists are in jail in Dhaka. Salam was denied bail in January 2015 and March 2015, according to reports. CPJ was unable to determine if a court date has been set for them.