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Zakir Naik’s Peace TV banned in Bangladesh after Dhaka terror attack, India may follow

After coming under the scanner of the Indian government when news broke out that two among a group of terrorists who killed 22 people in a posh Dhaka café last week were allegedly inspired by his speeches, Zakir Naik's Peace TV has now been banned by Bangladesh.
Zakir Naik

The Bangladesh government on Sunday decided to close down Peace TV, a Mumbai-based channel run by controversial Islamic Preacher Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation.

Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu said his ministry will evaluate the issue and adopt administrative measures to take the channel off air on Monday.

“There are issues related to administrative decision-making… we don’t have time today, I will see about taking the administrative steps from Monday morning,” Haq said hours after the Cabinet Committee on Law and Order decided to ban the controversial channel, reported bdnews24.com.

“Peace TV is inconsistent with Muslim society, the Quran, Sunnah, Hadith, Bangladesh’s Constitution, our culture, customs and rituals,” Inu added.

The ban came in the wake of the recent bloody terror attacks which rocked Bangladesh one after another. On July 1, two of the seven young militants, who struck at an upscale cafe in Dhaka’s diplomatic Gulshan enclave, were reportedly inspired by the Salafi tele-evangelist’s speeches.

The gruesome attack claimed the lives of 22 people, including 18 foreigners and two policemen, during the 12-hour siege which the security forces ended with a successful rescue operation codenamed as ‘Operation Thunderbolt’.

“We have decided to stop airing the channel across the country,” Xinhua news agency quoted Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu as saying.

Less than a week later, another terror attack — at the Sholakia Eidgah, in Kishoreganj, in central Bangladesh — claimed the lives of four people, including two policemen, as hundreds of thousands gathered for Eid prayers on Thursday morning at the country’s largest congregation.

The Indian authorities on Friday said they were examining and analysing the speeches of Naik and appropriate action will follow.

“We have taken cognisance of Zakir Naik’s speeches and necessary instructions have been issued in this regard,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh said.

Naik, who is based in Mumbai, said from Makkah that he “totally disagreed” that he had inspired the terror attack in Dhaka.

“There is not a single talk of mine where I encouraged one to kill another, whether Muslim or non-Muslim,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Centre has asked the states to ensure that cable operators do not broadcast the TV channels that are not permitted to downlink in India, like Zakir Naik’s ‘Peace TV’.

The advisory from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to the states follows the government’s announcement that an investigation is being carried out into all matters concerning controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik’s speeches on ‘Peace TV’.

“Zakir Naik had applied for a television channel in 2008 and in 2009 it was rejected. Now it has come to light that certain people are unauthorisedly violating rules, telecasting and downloading his speeches. Action will be taken from my side on whatever is unauthorised,” Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu told reporters.

“It may be noted that the role of state government(s) in this regard is crucial in preventing any broadcast or transmission of such non-permitted channels by the cable operators,” said the advisory from the ministry to chief secretaries and district collectors.

Naidu also said action will be taken for telecasting unauthorised content.

Citing reports that content “aimed at inciting communal and terrorist violence” is being broadcast through private satellite TV channels, such as ‘Peace TV’, the advisory to the state governments said such telecast is “not permitted” by the ministry for downlinking into the country.

Telecasting of such content is a “clear violation of the Cable TV Rules under Programme code and needs to be acted upon immediately.”

“In case of violations, necessary prompt action must be taken by the authorised officers in the district against the defaulters to stop transmission of these channels,” it said.

The two-page advisory said that in case of violations, necessary prompt action must be taken by the authorised officers in the district against the defaulters to stop transmission of such channels.

Besides other penal provisions, the equipment of such cable operators can be seized by the district authorities, the advisory said.

Official sources said ‘Peace TV’ does not have the required permission to be broadcast in India despite which it is distributed by some cable operators.

“Transmission or re-transmission of any TV channel in violation of the Cable TV Act is an offence which attracts action against the operators by the authorised officers. As per cable TV Act, if any authorised officer has reasons to believe that various provisions of the Act are violated by any operator, he has the powers to take against that operator,” the advisory said.

Islamic preacher Zakir Naik’s Peace TV channel is not permitted by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to downlink and warned the cable operators that action will be taken for transmitting the channel, the ministry said on Saturday.

In view of reports that the channel’s content aimed at inciting communal violence, the ministry issued a notification directing officials to take action against those transmitting the channel.

The ministry’s Deputy Secretary Shankar Lal said: “Reports are being received of such content being broadcast through private satellite TV channels, such as Peace TV channel, which are not permitted by this ministry for downlinking into the country.”

Naik is under the scanner following revelations that two of the five terrorists who massacred 20 hostages at a cafe in Dhaka on July 1 drew inspiration from his speeches.

“Some unauthorised private satellite television channels are being transmitted by some cable operators. This is a clear violation of the sub-rule 6(6) of the Cable TV Rules under programme code and needs to be acted upon immediately,” Lal said.

“Necessary action must be taken by the authorised officers promptly against the defaulters to stop transmission of these channels,” he added.

Issuing a list of 892 private channels which are permitted to telecast in the country, the ministry has advised all state governments to constitute state- and district-level monitoring committees for broadcast content.

It also said that people can send their complaints against telecast of non-permitted channels.

It said that cable TV rules specifies that no cable operator shall carry or include in his cable service any television broadcast or channel which has not been registered by the central government for being viewed within the territory of India.

“Transmission or re-transmission of any TV channel in violation of the Section 5 of the Cable TV Act read with Rule 6(6) by any cable operator is an offence which attracts action against the operators by the authorized officers,” it said.

As per cable TV Act, if any authorized officer has reasons to believe that various provisions of the Act including the programme code are violated by any operator, he has the powers to take against that operator either by seizing his equipment or punishment for contravention of provisions of the act under Section 16.

The ministry said that either a district magistrate, sub-divisional magistrate or a commissioner of police is authorised officer to keep account of cable TV operators.

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