ARTICLE 19, a UK-based international human rights organisation, has expressed disappointment over the court’s order for further investigation into the case filed against Prothom Alo’s special correspondent Rozina Islam.
The Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ), Dhaka Union of Journalists (DUJ) and Dhaka Reporters Unity (DRU) have expressed deep concern over the incident.
Faruq Faisel, the regional director of ARTICLE 19 South Asia, in a statement on Tuesday said that, “Rozina Islam revealed important information regarding the corruption and irregularities in the health sector (of Bangladesh) during the Coronavirus pandemic pandemic. Instead of taking effective measures against corruption in the health ministry, Rozina Islam has been harassed and tortured. She has been accused in a case filed under the Official Secrets Act. She is still being harassed due to this case.
“The naraji petition of the ministry of health filed in the court against the investigation report of the case is an expression of their vengeance against Rozina Islam. This continuous legal harassment by abusing the law must be stopped,” he added. ARTICLE 19 also called on the government to drop the case against Rozina Islam.
Rozina, who investigated stories of government corruption and mismanagement of the health sector in Bangladesh during the Covid-19 pandemic, was tortured and attacked on 17 May 2021, when she went to the health ministry on professional duty. She was detained for nearly six hours there.
Later, she was shown arrested in a case filed under the draconian Official Secrets Act. After investigating the case, the Detective Branch (DB) of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) submitted the final report to the court in July last year.
The report requested to acquit Rozina Islam from the case stating no evidence was found to support the allegations against her.
Shibbir Ahmed Osmani, the plaintiff in this case and a joint secretary of the ministry, appearing before the court on 23 January said that he would file a ‘naraji’ petition (petition rejecting the report) against the final report submitted by the police. The court granted his plea and ordered for further investigation into the case.
BFUJ acting president Madhusudan Mandal and secretary general Dip Azad and DUJ president Sohail Haider Chowdhury and general secretary Akter Hossain issued a joint statement expressing deep concern over the incident on Tuesday.
The statement said that the way Rozina Islam was harassed by the government officials while on professional duty is condemnable. At the time when prime minister Sheikh Hasina is working restlessly to ensure freedom of press, a vested quarter in different sections of the government has targeted the newspersons to hide or to cover up their irregularities, crimes and corruptions.
It further stated, “That vested quarter has questioned the policy of independent media and are trying to harass the newspersons and media by filing false cases.”
In a joint statement regarding this on Tuesday, DRU president Mursalin Nomani and general secretary Mainul Hasan said, “The plaintiff of the case has filed the naraji petition some seven months after the final reports on the case were placed. It’s an obstruction to independent and free journalism.” They also demand for acquitting Rozina from the case immediately.
Journalist Rozina received the 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 for her reports revealing the corruption in the health sector in Bangladesh.