As many as 20 eminent citizens expressed concern over the ‘naraji’ petition (no-confidence petition) by the plaintiff despite submitting the final report in the case lodged by the health ministry against Rozina Islam, special correspondent of Prothom Alo.
A statement signed by the eminent citizens was issued on Thursday.
The statement says while on her duty on 17 May in 2021, journalist Rozina Islam was detained for six hours in a room of the health ministry at the secretariat in Dhaka. She was harassed and tortured there. Later, she was handed over to the Shahbag police station.
Health ministry lodged a case against Rozina Islam under the Official Secrets Act of 1923 and two sections of the penal codes. She was sent to jail in this case. Then she was released on an interim bail six days later.
None of the provisions of the case filed against Rozina Islam can be applied to a professional journalist. According to that law, gathering any information from a secret place will be deemed punishable. But the ministry of health is not a secret place and there is no legal bar for journalists collecting information from there as part their professional work.
The court ordered the Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI) on 23 January for further investigation into the case as the plaintiff submitted no-confidence petition seven months after the Dhaka Metropolitan Police's Detective Branch (DB) had submitted their final report.
DB stated in its final report that no evidence was found in favour of the case filed against Rozina Islam. So, the investigating officer urged the court to release the journalist from the case. That means the allegation brought against Rozina was not proved.
The health ministry has continued harassing a woman journalist, even after the police investigation cleared the charges brought against her.
"We think this behaviour of the health ministry is a threat to independent journalism. We call for a fair and impartial investigation into the matter with respect for the law and the court," the statement read.
It is noted journalist Rozina Islam received free press award from Netherlands in 2021 and she was also awarded by US Anti-Corruption Champions Award last year.
Eminent personnel who signed the statement are: Serajul Islam Choudhury, Justice M A Matin, Rounaq Jahan, Qazi Khaliquzzaman Ahmed, Abul Kashem Fazlul Haq, Dr. Perween Hasan, Ramendu Majumder, Wahiduddin Mahmud, Mamunur Rashid, Moinul Islam, Syed, Manzoorul Islam, Abdul Momen, Anu Muhammad, Rasheda K Chowdhury, Shahriar Kabir, ZI Khan Panna, MM Akash, Syeda Rizwana Hasan, Sanjeeb Drong and Tanzimuddin khan.