Various allegations are being leveled against journalists in their efforts to collect information. Is this a display of power to threaten journalists?

The media publishes information which people do not know about. Journalists resort to various strategies, methods and means to collect information. When journalists go to the various offices in the secretariat, the ministers and the secretaries are aware they have come to collect news. If any secret information of the ministers and bureaucrats is even published, there are laws to protect them. There should be similar laws to protect journalists. There are certain officials in the administration who are involved in corruption and always want to conceal information. They will face problems if news or irregularities and corruption is revealed. That is why they are never cooperative.

If any secret information of the ministers and bureaucrats is even published, there are laws to protect them. There should be similar laws to protect journalists

When a journalist is detained for six hours and harassed at the centre of the administration, the secretariat, what work environment or security can be expected for journalists?

It was grossly unjust to detain and harass Rozina Islam for almost six hours in a room of the health ministry. This is a most unfortunate and alarming incident. I feel certain officials intentionally misbehaved with her as she had angered many of them by publishing several reports on corruption of the health ministry. However, I would hope to see this as an isolated incident. We hope that this does not have any effect on the work environment of journalists.

Centering on the Rozina Islam incident, all sorts of videos and personal phone conversations have been making rounds on the social media. Do you see this as a move to create confusion and influence the trial process?

We do not know the details of Rozina’s detention and harassment. The trial process cannot be influenced by edited video clips. We respect the law and I believe Rozina will receive justice from the court.

Ruling party leaders and ministers are issuing contradictory statements. Why do you think so?

Ever since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in the country last year, the ministers have been making all sorts of different statements. This has been confusing. There seems to be a lack of coordination within the government. Problems arise if anyone talks too much about the state of the virus transmission or about vaccines. In the case of Rozina, rather than talking too much, they should resolve the issue. The government and the media should not be placed in confrontation with each other. An accurate, neutral and fair inquiry into the matter should be conducted.

Officials of the health ministry have been accused of harassment and abuse. Yet they are included in the inquiry committee. The journalist community is rejecting this committee, but the ministry is not budging. What do you say about this?

An inquiry committee cannot include those involved in the incident. We have been saying this from the very beginning. The committee should drop officials of the health ministry and have officials of the law ministry or any other ministry. It must have representatives of the journalist community and other professionals so that the incident is properly investigated. And action must be taken against the officials of the health ministry who were involved in harassing Rozina.

* The interview has been rewritten in for Prothom Alo English edition by Ayesha Kabir

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