The closure of Dinkal, which culminated from its failure to comply with specific acts of law, was readily picked up by the international media AFP and Aljazeera to stoke their anti-Bangladesh campaign. Reciting their narrative, a section of people has started alleging that Dainik Dinkal was made defunct for being BNP’s spokesperson.
To what extent can the crux of their argument be justified that the move aimed at interfering with freedom of speech? Does it triumph over the test of reasoning that the government stopped the newspaper’s circulation out of apprehension? Can anyone call up any social or national issue where Dinkal played an unforgettable role? If freedom of speech is to be feared so morbidly, how are the operations of iconic newspapers such as Prothom Alo and The Daily Star still going on?
Before digging into these mysteries, we had better dive into the past of Dinkal and the violation of the law leading to its closure.
The birth fo Dinkal
Daily Dinkal was first published in 1986 as BNP’s spokesperson. Since its inception, the newspaper has been harnessed to eulogize BNP and denigrate the pro-liberation quarter. The founding publisher was the former BNP government minister, later Majedur Rahman, who had been at the center of controversies, including the Magura by-election.
Majedur was then succeeded by Khaleda Zia’s elder son Tarique Rahman as the publisher of the newspaper during her tenure as the prime minister. Tarique was then ripping the country apart using rampant extortion and terrorism through the alternate powerhouse called Hawa Bhaban. Tarique’s legendary crimes became international stories. During that period, BNP made its loyal tycoons introduce media outlets. Following that trend, Tarique also turned overnight into a publisher. However, never did Dinkal emerge as a people’s newspaper. It couldn’t gain popularity even among BNP enthusiasts.
Should the law be bent to favor BNP : The law governing Dinkal’s closure
Dinakal was closed on multiple grounds, each of which violated the law. One of the reasons was that its publisher Tarique Rahman is convicted of a serious crime and has been absconding for a long, which is against the law.
Moreover, the newspaper shifted its office and printing press without notifying the authority, which is also a defiance of the law. If a newspaper violates the law on multiple grounds, can its closure be dubbed as a dent to the freedom of speech?
Following the magistrate’s order, Dinkal authority appealed to Bangladesh Press Council on December 29. After a series of hearing sessions, the press council upheld the order on February 19.
On December 26, Dhaka District Magistrate Mohammad Mominur Rahman ordered the closure of the publication, stating that the newspaper had been requested through a Film and Publication gazette on October 1, 2019, to cancel its operation on grounds of violating the law.
Then the newspaper was handed a show-cause notice, but no befitting reply was submitted. Rather, it continued its publication. Later, the department requested, according to Law 1973, the newspaper take necessary steps for not submitting any clarification regarding the change in its publisher, editor, and printing press.
Under the aforementioned circumstances, the newspaper’s printing and circulation have been declared as a breach of the law on several grounds such as its editor staying overseas for a long and being convicted in criminal procedure. Therefore, the closure of the newspaper was made according to sections 10, 11, 16, and 20 (1)(b) of the Printing Presses and Publications (Declaration and Registration) Act of 1973.
Will the enforcement of the law be stopped? As dictated in the Printing Presses and Publications (Declaration and Registration) Act of 1973, no publisher or editor of a newspaper is entitled to stay outside the country for six months in a row. Moreover, a criminal conviction automatically invalidates the newspaper’s publication.
This law enforcement is not a practice without precedence. Several media houses had to change the publisher and printer complying with the same rules.
The law must be the same for everyone and there is no ground for extenuating circumstances. The Printing and Publication Act had been in practice even before the shutdown of Dinkal. Its publisher and printer Tarique Rahman has been beyond the territory of Bangladesh for 15 years consecutively. Still, his name was printed on the printer’s line even the day before its closure. Tarique Rahman is convicted of serious offenses including weapons, murders, and corruption. Should he still be at the helm of Dinkal just to ensure his freedom of speech?
Tarique’s vices responsible for the closure of Dinkal
The BNP’s formation of the government in 2001 culminated in a state of anarchy in Bangladesh. The country was zombied by the sudden burst of murders, disappearances, minority repression, corruption, and the rise of extremists. Bangladesh was turned into a sanctuary for arms smugglers’ syndicates and local terrorists. The dark sides of Bangladesh made headlines throughout the world in that period.
The remote controller of all these abominable crimes and rackets was at the hands of BNP’s current acting chairman Tarique Rahman. It was from there that they designed the blueprint for murdering Sheikh Hasina (currently the prime minister). On August 21, 2004, Bangabandhu Avenue was rattled by explosions targeting Sheikh Hasina and her rally. Despite their unsuccessful attempt on Sheikh Hasina, their grenades cut the lives of Ivy Rahman and other Awami League activists and leaders short. Severed limbs, blood pools, and scattered shoes were strewn across the street.
In this horrific situation, Hawa Bhaban leaders hatched another conspiracy: capturing the media world. Mirza Abbas, Mosaddek Ali Falu, Sadeque Hossain Khoka, Giasuddin Al Mamun, Tarique Rahman, and other influential people of BNP started opening media houses one after another.
Tarique took charge of Dinkal, which thrived on the share of extortion from different quarters and a plethora of government advertisements. Singing paeans for Tarique was the editorial motto of the newspaper. Its articles were primarily purposed for generating lies to divert August 21 and other diabolic incidents. Dinkal was packed up with concocted, willful lies to cover up the criminal involvements of Tarique and his people. It spewed out so big volumes of lies that it was even trashed by most BNP supporters. Therefore, it is left with no track record of joining the league of widely circulated or mainstream newspapers.
Why would the mouthpiece for Tarique’s vices care for the law? The breach of the law is programmed in their genes. But, can the law vary between man and man within the same territory? What is the motive for raising human rights issues about the trespassers of the law? The same quarter that was so vocal about the human rights issue of war criminals is so about the rights of Tarique Rahman and Dinkal. Their ulterior motive is clear to the people of Bangladesh.
In conclusion, there were 450 newspapers in Bangladesh 14 years ago and that number has increased to 1,260 over the years. Online media has flourished in the meantime. The number of television channels on air has shot up from 10 to 36. FM and community radios obtained licenses. On what grounds can they say that the media in Bangladesh is shrinking?