New York, February 21, 2023–Dainik Dinkal, the newspaper of Bangladesh’s main opposition party, was forced to close on Monday after its printing license was canceled in what the outlet’s managing editor, Shamsur Rahman Shimul Biswas, said were invalid grounds.
Dainik Dinkal suspended operations on February 20 after the Bangladesh Press Council, a quasi-judicial, government-funded body headed by a former High Court judge, rejected its appeal against a government shutdown order, Biswas told CPJ.
“The shutdown of Dainik Dinkal is a blatant attack on media freedom ahead of Bangladesh’s January 2024 national election,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in New York. “Closing a newspaper violates the democratic principles purportedly espoused by the Awami League-led government, and we call on the Bangladesh Press Council to review its order and uphold the free flow of information.”
The district administration in the capital, Dhaka, accused Dainik Dinkal on December 26 of violating local law on grounds that its publisher was a convicted criminal, but the publisher named in the order resigned the post in 2016, Biswas said.
Biswas told CPJ that the newspaper had filed documentation before the Press Council’s ruling that Tarique Rahman, acting chair of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was no longer Dainik Dinkal’s publisher. Rahman has been convicted of several criminal and money laundering charges, and lives overseas.
Dainik Dinkal covers BNP activities and has frequently criticized the ruling Awami League party, including the arrests of BNP politicians and supporters in what rights groups have characterized as a crackdown ahead of elections next year. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said the polls will be “fair and free.”
CPJ emailed Mohammad Mominur Rahman, the Dhaka deputy commissioner who filed the government order, and Mohammed Nizamul Huq Nasim, head of the Bangladesh Press Council and its three-member appeal board, but did not receive any replies.