Bangladesh government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina shut down the only newspaper of the main opposition party, on Monday (February 20). This comes after a government suspension order was upheld by a watchdog, reported AFP. The newspaper in question is the Dainik Dinkal, a Bengali-language broadsheet, employing hundreds of journalists and press workers and has been an important voice for the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) for more than three decades now. The unions and journalists also staged protests over the shutdown, on Monday, in the capital city, Dhaka. 

In a statement, two Dhaka-based journalist unions noted that the decision was a “reflection of the repression of opposition voices”, as per AFP. The closure of Dainik Dinkal was also met with small protests held by unions and journalists, on Monday, in the capital city. The authorities in the Dhaka district ordered the shutdown on December 26, but the publication was allowed to continue operations after submitting an appeal to the Press Council headed by a top high court judge.


“The council rejected our appeal yesterday (Sunday), upholding the district magistrate’s order to stop our publication,” said the Dainik Dinkal managing editor, Shamsur Rahman Shimul Biswas, to AFP. Additionally, a copy of the order procured by the news agency said that the printing permit of the newspaper was revoked for violating the country’s printing and publication laws.

The council said that the paper’s publisher and acting chief of BNP, Tarique Rahman was a convicted criminal, living in another country and left without handing his job over to another person. However, Biwas told AFP that Rahman submitted his resignation as well as appointed a new publisher but officials have refused to acknowledge these changes and said, “This shutdown is all part of the government crackdown on dissenting voices and freedom of speech”.  


Reportedly, the publication is said to have been covering stories that the mainstream newspapers, allegedly run by pro-government businessmen rarely did. This has led to frequent arrests of BNP activists and the party has claimed thousands of fake cases against their supporters. The closure also comes a month after the incumbent PM’s government ordered the shutdown of nearly 200 which it has accused of publishing “anti-state news” citing intelligence reports. 

Notably, campaigners and foreign governments including the United States have previously raised concerns about media freedom in the South Asian nation under PM Hasina who has reportedly taken efforts to stifle criticism. Hasina’s government in the past few years has repeatedly ordered the shutdown of several websites, including ahead of the national elections in December 2018. 


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