Court gags media from reporting of Tarique Zia

A Bangladesh court today banned local media from reporting speeches by the son of the besieged opposition leader, after authorities sought to muzzle dissent amid a wave of deadly anti-government protests.

mediaTarique Rahman, the eldest son of opposition leader Khaleda Zia and her heir apparent, has made a series of speeches and comments criticising Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her independence hero father.

Rahman, who has been living in London since 2008, was declared a fugitive more than a year ago for failing to appear in Bangladesh courts in connection with corruption cases.

The High Court’s ruling today coincides with deadly protests which authorities have blamed on Zia, although the judges made no mention of the violence in their decision.

“The court said as long as he remains a fugitive, no print, electronic or social media can publish or broadcast any news on his speeches, statements or meetings in the country,” deputy attorney general Biswajit Roy told AFP.

Zia, confined by authorities to her office since Saturday, has called on her supporters to block railway lines, highways and ports since Monday as part of efforts to topple her arch-rival Hasina and pave the way for fresh elections.

Tarique Rahman, 50, has especially irritated Hasina’s government after claiming that her father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman — widely regarded as the hero of Bangladesh’s 1971 independence war from Pakistan — was in fact a stooge of Islamabad.

In a series of speeches in London he has also claimed that his own father, late military dictator Ziaur Rahman, was actually the country’s first president instead of Hasina’s father.

One of the nation’s leading private television networks, ETV, was yesterday forced off the air in most parts of the country, and its owner was detained, one day after telecasting a vitriolic speech by Tarique Rahman live from London.

Police said the detention of ETV chairman Abdus Salam was connected to the station’s airing of “pornographic” material. But a senior editor at the channel rejected this as a smokescreen, designed to muzzle free speech.