Thursday, September 12, 2002

ETV:'The Palm tree is mine’!

Not known to many is while ETV may have had a ‘questionable’ license, its purview was strictly that of 'terrestrial transmission' and NOT meant in any way for satellite uplinks. In other words the eleven hour long transmission that ETV carried out in defiance of the Court verdict was not only a contempt of the Court, and a blatant disregard of the law of the land, it was also an act punishable as HIGH TREASON.

This is in response to: ETV: Death of an Image Builder by Dr.Abdul Momen

Ever since ETV went off the air – reactions by many in Bangladesh as also some on Internet e-forums have reeked strongly of a parochial mindset, and do what it might it in ‘building an image’ – ETV has left its viewers strongly afflicted with a ‘morolized mentality of Gram Bangla’ – that dithers at any legal process by resorting to the now famous Bengalee arrogance line of the ‘powerful’ – ‘Bichar jai hoke – taal gatch ta amar’ or ‘whatever may be the outcome of the dispute – the palm tree is mine’!

When the debate started earlier this year, there were many who would elevate ETV to the sacrosanct - never for once believing that it could be anything but 'innocent'. Time hopefully has proved many of them WRONG - but then the 'palm tree is stilll mine and what lovely plams they were' debate rages!.

After the long, unprecedented and arduous legal battle that gave ETV more than the proverbial ‘sholo ana’ or 'sixteen anas' to defend itself and even after the involvement of heavy weight lawyers and Barrister they FAILED legally and miserably – it now seems the Awami propaganda brigade propped up by the Media Mafia interest in Bangladesh as also questionable Netizen's have worked up a gooey froth in their mouth, taking the issue way out of context and in some cases they border on the irrelevant and harbor on the trivial – or is it plain frivolous!

Emotions are not what dictates common sense - 'evidence' is the crux - and what is very tragic in the entire episode is ETV could not come up with convincing evidence to support their so called 'innocence'.

Dr. Abdul Momen’s arguments therefore are classic examples of this 'palm tree' mindset– and may I also remind readers – no different from what some Bengalee newspapers in Dhaka are saying without much success.

To begin with there is this sudden ‘addhatik’ or ‘spiritual’ angle to the debate: of course whose ‘religiosity’ or the lack of it is being aimed at is yet another question!

Dr.Momen writes and I quote:

Alexander Hamilton, the architect of the American economy was an illegitimate son of a Scottish soldier and Jesus Christ, the prophet of Christianity [as well the Muslims], the largest religions on this planet earth was known to have an unnatural birth. Although their births were questionable, they have done so much good to the human beings that no one ever approached any judge to declare their achievements null and void. Since their births were questionable, would the Bangladesh government kill them in the name of public interest? Will they shut down the religion of Christianity or the American banking system? I hope not. If they do, the Christian and the Western media would raise a barrage of issues including that of a Bangladeshi High Court Judge who was caught on tape being influenced by the former President General H. M. Ershad. Although that Judge was found guilty, he was neither imprisoned nor he paid harsh penalty yet. He simply retired from the bench with full benefits. Treatment to him was not as harsh as that to the ETV.

Very well said Dr. Momen – but readers please note that he has not spelt out clearly whether Jesus Christ himself was ‘illegitimate’ – and therefore his arguments are well out of line, especially if we consider the sentiments of many Christian readers on this forum.

However what has been very consciously side lined is that ETV was no ‘human’ and that its deeds were not within the confines of what may be termed as mere ‘goodness’ provided to society. There was more to it – dark and sinister, but before I make those points – consider these.

1. Surely Bangladesh cannot enact any law to ‘kill’ all illegitimate child born in its territory – but by drawing a parallel that ETV should not be killed on the strength of the above argument – also makes a strong case for us, to identify and endorse all the ‘bastards of Bangladesh’ – and come up with laws guaranteeing their ‘legal’ status, with the full protection of the law – only to create further bastardization? Radical as this may be -are we really prepared to accept the societal and ‘public interest’ backlash that will most certainly result in the event we keep on harping on the illogic’s of this logic?
2. Having said that – especially when Dr. Momen makes unnecessary and unfortun ate references to several monotheistic religions – that believe fortuitously that mankind is after all the creation of the ‘original sins’ of Adam and Eve – can Dr.Momen satisfy to the curiosity of the learned readers in this forum as to who therefore married the children of Adam and Eve? If they married among themselves as is EVIDENT – why was it not ‘incest’ and their children not ‘illegitimate’?
I guess the point here is mankind has accepted the ‘original sins’ and have made 'laws' thereafter to ensure more sins are not committed and that laws are not broken. On a flip side the birth of Jesus was not ‘unnatural', but that ‘divine conception’ was a miracle of the Supreme Being. It was indeed not the first time. When the Supreme Being created Eve, he did so without a women (Adams rib), and when he created Jesus – he did so without a MAN.

The fact of the matter is that ETV broke ‘natural laws of the land’, and the ‘miracle’ of their sudden boom and bust story was because of the ‘intervener’: the Awami League – the Government of the day. Their sinister machination was proved beyond any reasonable doubt in the High Court and then the Supreme Court and its illegality was therefore in no way beyond question.

About H.M.Ershad and the learned judge.

In that case it was the notorious Ershad that committed the crime – in his attempt to influence the Court. That he failed in his attempt is well evident that he was charged and thereafter jailed. The learned judge did not commit any crime. By speaking to Ershad he committed a 'misdemeanor' and his resignation was therefore the sensible thing to do.

However, in the case of the ETV, the first private sector joint venture project of Bangladesh in media communication, a rising star and a hope for millions, was shut down abruptly as its birth process was 'non-transparent' and questionable. The learned judges gave their verdict in accordance with the law of the land. We have no quarrel with their finding, however, we have question about the shut down of the ETV. Remember, the learned judges did not give verdict to close it down. They simply said, its licensing process was not transparent. Since its licensing process was non-transparent, it could be penalized instead of shutting down or/and all the government officials and the ETV directors that were involved in that shadowy dealing could be imprisoned for being corrupt. However, none is penalized other then the ETV viewers yet.

I suppose the honorific ‘Dr.’ that precedes Dr. Abdul Momen's name is suggestive of an individual in the society who is not only learned but also hopefully and expectedly more ‘respectable’ and responsible than say ‘Doctorate-13’. Sheikh Hasina Wazed Miah!

But most unfortunately here again is a glaring example of the moral corruption of our pompous and patronizing ‘intellectual community’ – especially when they think the most important thing to do in a 'situation' is by resorting time and again to dessiminate misleading information’s that the Courts have since thrown out.

While it is true that the learned judges did not give any judgement to close down the TV channel – it is certainly NOT within the purview of the Court's responsibility – i.e. the prerogative of ‘enforcing’ that the proven ‘illegality’ does not continue, lies with the Government not the Court?

After all what is the ‘product’ that ETV was selling both political and material – if not its illegal transmission? If ETV was a human and an automobile driver and its license was declared illegal – would driving a vehicle – or for that matter any automobile be considered LEGAL?

Our honorable Prime Minister Khaleda Zia is said to have at least two birth dates and the same with our Chairman of the Bangladesh Telecom Regulatory Commission, Syed Margub Murshed. Will the government ask for their 'shut down' for more than one birthday? No. When Mr. Murshed's double birth dates were detected and found to be against the government regulation, he was reappointed and transferred from one position to another equivalent position, as his public service rightfully was considered more desirable. Considering the ETV's service to the nation of Bangladesh and Bangladeshis both home and abroad, similar actions could be taken, instead of killing it.

Here is again a classic example of politicking, when it is well apparent that what Dr.Abdul Momen is peddling is nothing more than innuendoes and hearsay i.e. one that is not fit to be even considered for an arbitration.

In any event, I suggest therefore that Dr.Abdul Momen take advantage of the High Court ruling on ETV, where it was stated that ‘the Court will henceforth give more time to public litigation cases’ and immediately proceed to sue Khaleda Zia and Syed Margub Morshed – and let this be heard out in a court of law. Mere writing on the Net forums will not help.

Reportedly the present government was upbeat at the sad demise of the ETV and it promptly seized its assets and currently trying to deport its able Managing Director, a British national so that he stops filing cases to the Courts. Question is: why the present government is up against the ETV? Has it betrayed the government interest? Has it betrayed the public interest? So far the government could not come up with enough credible evidence to show that it betrayed and hurt the public interest and it is a stumbling block to the practice of multi-party democracy or Islamic faith for which it had to be closed down.

I hate to have to be impertinent here – but by the above statement isn’t Dr.Abdul Momen rejecting a basic right of people to rejoice? If that were the case, I say with no uncertainty that Dr.Abdul Momen is displaying a fascist mindset – so typical of Awami thug-ocracy. I for one believe that the ETV judgment was a milestone in the history of public litigation cases in Bangladesh – a victory for the PEOPLE and that ALL should rejoice, not just the ‘present Government’.

The present Government became a party to this dispute only after it tried to enforce the verdict of the Supreme Court Appellate Division – and quite rightfully so.

Effective the time ETV’s last petition was rejected – it truly became an illegal entity – and regardless of what its viewers and self serving supporters like the Prothom Alo and Daily Star nexus thought – ETV was horribly misled into this situation by its lawyers and questionable elements that tried to play politics with the issue, when it should have been the natural and obvious thing to accept the verdict and in the process show respect to the law.

What made ETV resort to this act of defiance i.e. its continued eleven hour-long transmission after the verdict – is something that needs to be clarified.
1. By showing defiance to the Court verdict the ETV and its politico cultural sympathizers and sycophants had expected that a ‘public revolt’ would ensue – which of course proved quixotic i.e. non of its viewers showed up at their gates – and the ones that did were sycophants and people whose bills were not cleared by the ETV! Therefore the punch fisted ETV newsreaders ‘last pronouncements’ miserably failed, as they had no ‘looks’ of revolutionaries. Their message was flawed and illegal, and they had to end with tears like the wimps that they truly are.

2. Not known to many is while ETV may have had a ‘questionable’ license, its purview was strictly that of 'terrestrial transmission' and NOT meant in any way for satellite uplinks. In other words the eleven hour long transmission that ETV carried out in defiance of the Court verdict was not only a contempt of the Court, and a blatant disregard of the law of the land, but an act punishable as HIGH TREASON.

3. And what prompted the Government to seize their satellite uplink equipment on the 1st of September? While ETV’s transmission in Bangladesh was halted – it continued to transmit signals to its viewers in the UK through clandestine means (confirmed by the ETV representative in UK, Source: Weekly Mridubhashon 9th September 2002 issue).

It is therefore more than likely that once the smoke of ETV’s so called ‘popularity’ starts to evaporate and more and more details emerge as to what transpired in its ‘un-transparent birth’ become obvious, will anybody with an iota of patriotism be able to appreciate the seriousness of the crimes they indulged in.

Criminal prosecutions can now start if it has not already - and no Simon Dring or others should be spared, for what they tried to jeopardize was the national interest and one that is not up for SALE to the highest bidder or ‘entertainer’ period.

No wonder it captured nearly 97% market share in such a short time. It also proved that given opportunity, Bangladeshi media and other professionals could achieve superior performance. It enhanced nation's image both home and abroad and it brought back the new generation to look forward to Bangladesh away from the Indian movies and TV channels [ironically it is the BNP government that is forcing its new generation to adopt Indian culture by shutting down the ETV]. In a country where politics is nothing but white lies and mudslinging, it provided a constructive platform.

The truth lies somewhere in between.

ETV could only capture 97% of the market because they got the terrestrial channel almost free of charge - a gift to Mr.A.S.Mahmud by Sheikh Hasina Wazed Miah.

As if that was not enough they had also done everything within its power (or through iuts misuse) to cheat the Government and the PEOPLE who are after all the real owners of this BTV property. The truth behind their so-called application to the BTRC as claimed by their lawyers in Court – that prompted their eleven-hour defiance lay elsewhere and as the HOLIDAY states and I quote:

There was, in fact, an application filed by ETV pending with the BTRC, but that was for exemption from payments it owed the government (some Tk. 5 crore worth, which ETV wanted to be cut down to Tk.7.5 lakh), but even that application was refused by the Commission on August 28, while the claims in front of the Appellate bench were made on August 29.

If the ETV was that profitable as is made out to be - why then did they want to swindle the people of Bangladesh the Taka 5 crore that was due to them as an 'exemption'? 'Foreign investors' need to find out.
To read text of the full HOLIDAY article:


Moreover, it was the only channel that used to give coverage to the country's largest opposition party of Khaleda Zia while others ignored her. In the recent past, while all the news from Bangladesh, one after the other, were bad to worse and at times, miserable, the ETV was the only institution that everybody could be proud of. Now, it's over....it had a questionable birth like most of Bangladeshi institutions and projects and therefore, a sad demise.


While there is some truth to the above contention – the fact of the matter is ETV started to ‘sweet talk’ BNP only after it became apparent that they would be swept to power in Polls 2001.

Unfortunately on the 30th of May 2001 ostensibly when BNP approached ETV to air a BNP documentary on General Ziaur Raman on his death anniversary – while ATN aired it unedited and Channel I begged off for fear of Awami reprisal – ETV not only refused to air the same – they behaved very rudely with those that came in with the video to the extent of having them thrown out from the ETV premise. Drunk with power ETV proved it was no ‘democratic institution’ but an Awami institution and they had to pay this exacting price for the same. Bad judgement, pathological arrogance and bad luck – combined with corruption was all ETV truly was.

When foreign firms invested in the ETV in 2000, they knew that it was a year old legal entity with all the rights and privileges. The pervious government had the authority to grant license to the ETV. If that authority is declared 'null and void' owing to change of the government, then prospective foreign investors and even donor agencies could be doubtful of the legitimacy of any contract by the government. If the tenure of the current government is over, will all of its decisions and guarantees would be considered illegal? Secondly, even if the ETV is illegal, could the FDI be safe guarded?

This is once again a very redundant ‘example of an argument’ and one used by Dr.Kamal Hossain in Court to no avail.

Bangladesh has already earned a very bad reputation as the most corrupt country in the world. It earned this damaging reputation consecutively for the second year now. With the closure of the ETV will that infamous attribute would be over? Or, will it reinforce it? Will it rather send a signal that even the judicial system or its verdicts in Bangladesh could be manipulated or influenced [as the government abstained from defending itself in the ETV case] to achieve the desired objective?

What else do you expect when you have somebody like Mr.Mahfuz Anam of Daily Star is in TI Bangladesh – who is now fighting FOR nd not AGAINST the same corruption that TI has accused Bangladesh of! All the more reason ETV should have been closed much earlier.

To end, this is a personal comment and one that I state with some convictions is - what will happen to the ETV is foreordained.

Despite their many efforts at the media and press front – the eventual demise of ETV is only a matter of formality and a foregone conclusion. So far they have kept the rumor and propaganda mill open, only to save their own skin from the wrath and retribution of those that they have employed. People like Shamsur Haider Dalim or Munni Saha are now seen addressing meetings where less that 100 people attend, yet the press makes a great ‘tamasha’ of. In the ‘crying in’ session at the Shahid Minar for instance, there were also less than a hundred people – but images of the Mukto Khabar reporters were seen in every newspaper worth its name as if this was some kind of ‘national mourning’.

In reality the people at large have already jettisoned ETV from their conscience for having betrayed their conscience in the first place.

Question are now being raised as to ‘what will happen to the staff of ETV?’

The answer is simple – the law that found their employers guilty will protect them. They will eventually head out to court to demand compensations that can run into billions of takas and having said that – I guess the only way ETV can afford to pay them back is by selling their equipments and other properties, which may of course be seized well ahead by the Government when the Bureau of Anti Corruption (BAC) findings leads to paying a stiff penalty to the people of Bangladesh for robbing of – what is very much their own.

Last if not the least – I believe there are two more channels ex Bangladesh i.e. Channel I and ATN – (not as rich as ETV thanks to their fraud and corruption) – that has and will continue to do its best at upholding the ‘image’ of Bangladesh or the lack of it – and they need all kind of support.

ETV is DEAD – let us not forget that. It’s only the burial rites that are keenly anticipated.


Post Script:

[As I close this piece, The controversial Chairman of ETV Limited Mr.A.S.Mahmud and his son Mr.Farhad Mahmud the co Managing Director have been removed. Note that the ETV has requested that politics is not played out with ETV. The Mahmud family has proved that they are lousy politicians and equally lousy businesmen!]

New chairman of ETV Ltd
Staff Correspondent

The Board of Directors of Ekushey Television Limited has appointed Nasiruddin Ahmad Chowdhury chairman of the company due to illness and absence of its founder chairman Abu Sayed Mahmud. Abu Sayed Mahmud is in the UK now for treatment, said a press release issued by ETV last night. A meeting of the directors was informed that Managing Director Farhad Mahmud, son of Abu Sayed Mahmud, would also not be able to continue his duties as he is attending his ailing father in the UK The Board has directed that until further notice, Joint Managing Director Mr Simon Dring will be responsible for overall management of the company. The press release said the management of Ekushey Television would like to thank its millions of viewers, friends and well-wishers home and abroad who have expressed their full support and cooperation. The management also requested its supporters to ensure that Ekushey Television is not "exploited as a political issue".

Ekushey Television is an independent, impartial voice of the people and is not affiliated with any political organization, group or individual. As per law, Ekushey Television Limited is now applying to the government for a new license in order to commence broadcasting again, the press release said.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Fariha Sarawat said...

I just read this today, I think this also sheds some light on the Tasneem Khalil debacle. Alas, we never learn from our mistakes!! No such thing as free lunch...no such thing as free and non-partisan media!

3:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm..the original article is old ( spet 2002)...is th single response to it more recent? the timelog says just 3 .34 am?

3:59 AM  

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