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Live telecast of opposition rally blocked in Dhaka

(IFJ/IFEX) - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is alarmed at reports from Bangladesh that three television channels were blocked for viewers in the capital city of Dhaka on March 12, coinciding with a speech by the leader of the national opposition at a political rally.

Sources indicate that three channels -- Ekushey Television, BanglaVision and Islamic TV -- were inaccessible for viewers between 3 pm that day, approximately an hour before the opposition leader began her address, until 6:30 pm, after she concluded.

Staff at the affected TV channels have revealed that the Cable Operators' Association of Bangladesh (COAB) had been asked by the government to suspend the transmission of the three channels for this length of time.

There have also been reports that the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, which grants licences for use of the broadcast spectrum, may have directly intervened with certain channels to dissuade them from covering the opposition rally live.

"The IFJ condemn these pressure tactics which intrude into the domain of autonomous decision making by the media and undermine the right of citizens to choose the manner of news coverage they would like to listen to or view", said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.

"We underline once again that the media should not be drawn into the partisan battles between Bangladesh's two main political parties and should be given the freedom to determine priorities in accordance with stated editorial policies and beliefs".

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