ARTICLE 19, a UK-based international human rights organization, has expressed disappointment over the court’s order for further investigation into the case against Prothom Alo’s special correspondent Rozina Islam.
ARTICLE 19 also called on the government to drop the case against Rozina and urged to take effective measures to prevent vexatious cases against journalists, incidents of assault, torture and harassment, the organisation said in a press release on Tuesday.
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 about six hours and was later shown arrested under the archaic ‘Official Secrets Act’. Since then, Rozina has been facing charges of up to 14 years in prison or even the death penalty.
The filing of the case against her drew flak from netizens and a cross-section of people. It also triggered strong protests from journalists and different local and international organisations.
After investigating the case, the Intelligence Branch (DB) of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police 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. ARTICLE 19 welcomed the police's final report in the case.
Shibbir Ahmed Osmani, the plaintiff in this case and a joint secretary of the ministry, appearing before the court on Monday said that he would file a ‘naraji’ petition (petition rejecting the report) against the final report submitted by the police.
Faruq Faisel, the regional director of ARTICLE 19 South Asia, told the media in a press conference on Tuesday, “Journalist Rozina Islam revealed corruption and irregularities in the health sector in Bangladesh during the Corona pandemic. Instead of taking effective measures against corruption in the health ministry, Rozina Islam has been harassed and tortured.
“A case has been filed against her under the Official Secrets Act. She is still being harassed due to the case. The naraji petition of the ministry of health filled in the court against the investigation report of the case is an expression of their revenge against Rozina Islam. This continuous legal harassment by abusing the law must be stopped.”
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.