PBI directed to further investigate case against journalist Rozina

Rozina Islam

The court has directed Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI) to further investigate the case filed under the penal code and the Official Secrets Act against Prothom Alo special correspondent Rozina Islam.

Additional chief metropolitan magistrate (ACMM) of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) Court of Dhaka, Tofazzal Hossain, gave this directive on Monday.

After seven months of Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Detective Branch (DB) submitting final report in this case, the court gave directive of further investigation.

Police had stated in the final report that no substantial evidence was found to support the allegations brought against Rozina Islam. That’s why the investigating agency wanted to acquit her of the case.

Since getting out on bail following her arrest in that case, Rozina Islam has been appearing before the court on the fixed dates for 20 months now. She got her press accreditation card, seized as case evidence, back on court order after almost seven months.

On 17 May 2021, while on professional duty, journalist Rozina Islam was harassed and tortured for about six hours by detaining her inside a room at the Ministry of Health. She was handed over to Shahbagh police station later.

Deputy secretary at the ministry of health Shibbir Ahmed Osmani filed a case against Rozina Islam under two sections, the Official Secrets Act of 1923 and the Penal Code. After investigating the case, DB submitted the final report at court on 3 July last year.

After about seven months of the final report being submitted, plaintiff of the case appeared before the court Monday and said he would file a ‘naraji’ petition (petition rejecting the report) against the final report, submitted in the case he filed.

The court then asked the plaintiff, why he would file the 'naraji' petition. He told the court that he being the plaintiff filed the case on government’s behalf. But, the final report of the case has been submitted without proper investigation.

The court said that specific reasons have to be mentioned for filing a 'naraji' petition. The plaintiff replied that his lawyer will talk about that.

At this point of the hearing, Rozina Islam’s lawyer Prashanta Karmakar said that his client’s senior lawyer Ehsanul Haque Samaji couldn’t come to the court Monday due to ill health. He appealed to set up a new date for hearing of the ‘naraji’ petition, in his (Samaji) presence.

After hearing lawyers from both parties the court later directed PBI to probe the case further.

Following the verdict, Rozina Islam’s lawyer Ehsanul Haque Samaji told Prothom Alo on Monday night that police submitted final report acquitting his client Rozina Islam on 3 July last year.

Rozina Islam appeared before the court on hearing dates for about seven months of the final report being submitted. Yet, after delaying to settle the final report, the ‘naraji’ petition filed on behalf of the plaintiff has been accepted Monday.

Ehsanul Haque Samaji added that directing the investigating agency, mentioned in the ‘naraji’ petition, for further investigation, without giving the defendant party enough hearing opportunity is contradictory to justice.

In that case, his client has suffered irreparable loss. She’s entitled to legal solution at the High Court. DB’s final report stated that no substantial evidence was found to support the allegations brought against Rozina Islam.

A review of the case documents showed that Rozina Islam got out on bail after six days of her arrest on 17 may, 2021.

On 19 September of that year, Dhaka CMM court rejected Rozina Islam's appeal for her passport, press accreditation card and two mobile phones, seized from the secretariat, to be returned.

The High Court granted the revision application on 15 December the same year. She then got her press accreditation card back.

UK-based international human rights organisation, Article 19, had appreciated police submitting the final report in the case against journalist Rozina Islam. The organisation hopes that Rozina Islam will get justice from the court.

International organisation for protecting the rights of journalists Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), has expressed deep dissatisfaction at the news of court directing further investigation into the case. CPJ has sought immediate end to this harassment of Rozina Islam.

Transparency International said in a tweet, for her corruption investigations in Bangladesh, Rozina Islam has faced police inquiries over the Official Secrets Act.

She was found not guilty in the report submitted seven months ago, but there has been a surprising development today, the court has directed further investigation into the case.

Transparency International believes there’s pressure from the Ministry of Health. The Berlin-based organisation has said journalists should be free to work without fear of attack. They urged the government to ensure a fair investigation free from undue influence from other parties.

Journalist Rozina Islam received Free Press Award 2021 as the ‘Most Resilient Journalist’. She also received ‘Anti-Corruption Champions Award’ of 2022, conferred by the US State Department on 9 December, last year.