Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontiers - RSF) condemns the government’s decision to withdraw the publishing license of the opposition newspaper Dainik Uttarabanga Barta, just as the opposition has made a positive gesture in agreeing to sit in Parliament. "This affair throws new discredit on the commitments of Khaleda Zia’s government in favor of press freedom," said Robert Ménard, general secretary of Reporters Without Borders. In a letter sent to Tariqul Islam, minister of information, the international press freedom organization called on the government to reverse this decision.
Reporters Without Borders also asked for the reasons for the recent search of the offices of the magazine Linkbangla, which have apparently led the managing director to go into exile out of fear of being arrested. "In light of these two cases, one can question the credibility of the government criticism made concerning the last Reporters Without Borders report on the press freedom situation in Bangladesh, which warned about an increase in repression against private media," said Robert Ménard.
According to information obtained by the organisation, the government, on 5 July 2002, withdrew the publishing license of the local newspaper Dainik Uttarabanga Barta published in Natore (north of the country). The authorities criticized the newspaper for publishing an article, on 26 March, the day of the country’s independence, presenting prime minister Khaleda Zia as the opposition leader, and calling opposition leader Sheikh Hasina prime minister.
Hanif Ali Sheikh, managing director of the newspaper and a local leader of the Awami League (opposition party), said that it was a mistake caused by incorrect data processing. He apologized, and published an erratum the following day on the front page of the newspaper. In spite of this correction, local officials filed charges against the publication. After Hanif Ali Sheikh made his explanations, the local administration decided not to withdraw the newspaper’s license. Three months later, following an injunction from the government in Dhaka, the local administration withdrew the newspaper’s license, in accordance with article 20(D) of the 1973 press law. The publisher called this a "political decision" and said he would appeal.
In another case Monjurul Azim Palash, publisher of the magazine Linkbangla, decided to go into exile in Great Britain after receiving threats. The Dhaka offices of this magazine published for Bangladeshis living in Europe were searched by police. Police seized copies of the May-June 2002 issue, and questioned members of the journalist’s family. The reasons for this harassment are not known, but Palash told Reporters Without Borders that he was planning to hold a press conference in London.