Since police in Bangladesh ceased the passport of Rozina Islam, the journalist could not attend the award giving programme at the Hague. Md Monirul Islam, husband of Rozina Islam, received the award on behalf of her from renowned Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir at the programme.
Rozina Islam joined the programme virtually. She said, “I dedicate this award to those journalists of the country who are carrying out journalism amid hostility. When I walked out of jail, I vowed to continue journalism. And after receiving this award, I am reiterating my vow that my fight will continue.”
Free Press Unlimited awards the journalists in two categories – one is ‘Most Resilient Journalist’ and another is ‘Newcomer of the Year’. Young Indian journalist Bhat Burhan was awarded in the ‘Newcomer of the Year’ category
Free Press Unlimited said Rozina Islam was awarded because of her great courage and perseverance. As an investigative journalist working for the largest daily newspaper in Bangladesh, 'The daily Prothom Alo', she has uncovered wrongdoings in her country’s health spending and is now facing trial and tribulation in her country.
The jury unanimously decided to grant this year’s Most Resilient Journalist Award to Rozina Islam. The jury said, “We express solidarity with the fight of journalists to uncover malpractices during this problematic time of the pandemic and calls on the government of Bangladesh to stop its harassment of Rozina Islam.”
On 18 May last year, journalist Rozina Islam was harassed while carrying out her professional duty at the health ministry. She had been confined to the ministry for about six hours. She was shown arrested under a century-old Official Secrets Act later and sent to jail.
After five days, Rozina Islam was released from jail on bail. Programmes were held home and abroad protesting torture and case against Rozina Islam. Various local and foreign organisations also issued protest. Though Rozina Islam was released on bail, the case against her has not been withdrawn as yet. Her passport, mobile phone and accreditation card used to carry out professional duty at the secretariat have also not been returned.
Three received nominations
Along with Rozina Islam, Omar Radi from Morocco and Raman Vasiukovich from Belarus were the other nominees in the ‘Most Resilient Journalist’ category.
Omar Radi has been working as an investigative journalist in Morocco for over a decade. He has uncovered many scandals involving social and economic inequalities of the country. Free Press Unlimited said, following a long harassment campaign against him, Omar Radi has been sentenced to six years in jail after a mock trial and he is behind bars now.
Raman Vasiukovich, a journalist at the TV channel Current Time, documented the protests against the stolen elections in Belarus in 2020. He was forced into exile after his pictures presented graphic evidence of his beaten, arrested, tortured and violently attacked fellow countrymen. But this has not stopped him from doing his work. From Ukraine, Raman continues to report about the corruption of Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko.
The recipient of the ‘Newcomer of the Year’ award, Bhat Burhan is a 22-year-old freelance journalist based in New Delhi, India.
His recent documentaries focused on the crisis of transgender community in Kashmir, the farmers’ protests in India, the crematorium workers who cremated around a hundred Covid-19 victims in New Delhi, and the lack of Covid-19 vaccination to refugees in New Delhi.
The prize money with Rozina Islam’s award is 7500 euros (Tk 750,000) and journalist Bhat Burhan is 1,500 euros (Tk 150,000).
On the announcement of the award, Free Press Unlimited said, “We have received many nominations of brave and talented journalists from all over the world. We see that the pressure on independent media and journalists is incredible high, and therefore we are even more impressed by the resilience and passion journalists worldwide show in their profession.”
‘Rozina never stopped’
When announcing the nominees of the award, Free Press Unlimited said in its website Rozina Islam has endured many threats and harassment because of her work, but that never stopped her in her quest to uncover abuses of power and corruption in the public sector.
Along with reporting on health sector, Rozina Islam, who has been working for Prothom Alo over a decade, has reported on various issues, including home affairs and liberation war ministries, crime, environment, power and energy and corruption.
Prior to wining the Free Press Award, Rozina Islam also received numerous awards. She received the best reporter award in the health sector by Dhaka Reporters’ Unity (DRU) this year. She reported on corruption in recruitment of the health sector. She also received the DRU award in 2011, 2014 and 2017.
Rozina Islam received other award including UNESCO Award (2011), UNESCO Club Journalist’s Award )2006, Canadian Awards for Excellence in Bangladesh Journalism (2011), Best Reporter’s Award of Prothom Alo (2013 and 2014) and Best Investigative Journalism Award of Transparency International Bangladesh (2015).
During the award giving ceremony, Rozina Islam said, “The situation will obviously change, it must change for the sake of the people. And I am waiting for that day.”