Journalists bodies demand release of investigative reporter in Bangladesh

Known for unearthing graft of the Bangladeshi government, investigative journalist Rozina Islam was arrested for violating the colonial-era official secrecy law, Official Secrets Act

May 20, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Police escort journalist Rozina Islam. Photo: Star

Several journalists bodies in Bangladesh including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have demanded the immediate release of investigative journalist Rozina Islam, who was arrested for allegedly violating the colonial-era official secrecy law, Official Secrets Act (OSA), on May 17.

“Bangladesh police and authorities should recognize that Rozina Islam is a journalist whose work is a public service and should immediately drop the case against her and allow her to go free,” CPJ stated.

Razina has been associated with Prothom Alo newspaper and was detained on Monday night. Her arrest triggered protests and condemnations across the journalist fraternity in the country.

At least 250 journalists were subjected to attacks and harassment by the authorities last year alone. During the ongoing pandemic, at least 85 journalists have been charged in Bangladesh. 

Rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have estimated that at least 900 cases were filed under the Digital Security Act, with nearly 1,000 people charged and 353 detained, many of them journalists. 

Islam is known for her reports on government corruption. As per reports, the police accused her of using a mobile without permission to photograph documents related to government negotiations to buy the COVID-19 vaccine.

The journalist has been reporting on how the Health Ministry has been plagued with corruption and how the urgent medical equipment was left at Dhaka airports for months. She was taken to CMM court in Old Dhaka from Shahbagh police station on May 18.

“Her reports have clearly exposed the weaknesses of the ministry to safeguard the health rights of the people during the coronavirus pandemic,” the Law and Mediation Centre group said.

Activists also say the pandemic has worsened freedom of the press in Bangladesh, with the government increasingly using the draconian digital security law to stifle criticism.