FExB, a network of media rights organisations in Bangladesh, in the strongest words protested the arbitrary arrests of Rozina Islam, senior reporter of a popular newspaper Prothom Alo for ‘breaching’ Official Secrets Act.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare alleged that she has been charged for “theft” of “important” official documents from a government office and “photographing” confidential documents.Charges have been brought against Rozina under Sections 385 and 411 of the Penal Code and Sections 3 and 5 of the Official Secrets Act, a British colonial law of 1923 which is rarely used.
FExB, urge to repeal both Official Secrets Act, 1923 and Digital Security Act, 2018, which contradicts the Right to Information Act, 2009, curtails freedom of expression, transparency and accountability to strengthen pluralism and democracy.
Award-winning anti-corruption journalist denies any wrongdoing, while her newspaper suspects she is framed for reporting corruption in the health sector amid the COVID-19 crisis.
In recent weeks her investigative stories in Prothom Alo exposed organised corruption in the Health Ministry and have raised alarm among the lawmakers, civil society, and in the media.
Her four investigative stories on appalling coronavirus pandemic management and purchase of equipment like oxygen generators, ICU medical equipment were lying in the open sky and nothing has been done to improve the healthcare management during the year-long pandemic.
FExB demands that the Minister Mr Zahid Maleque of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Lokman Hossain Miah, Secretary, Health Services Division of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Kazi Zebunnessa Begum, Additional Secretary, Health Services Division should be held accountable for assault, illegal confinement, unauthorised seizure of bag, mobile phone and press card, and intimidation on May 17.FExB demands unconditional release of journalist Rozina Islam and withdraw false cases against her.
The government must ensure that such an incident will not repeat again.
Those Endorsed and signed by Media Rights Defenders: Dr. Syeda Aireen Jaman, Secretary-General, PEN International, Bangladesh; Faruq Faisel, South Asia Regional Director, Article 19; Khairuzzaman Kamal, Representative International Federation of Journalists (IFJ); Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, CEO, VOICE, Dhaka; Mainul Islam Khan, Representative, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ); Sayeed Ahmad, Representative, Front Line Defenders; Ahamed Ullah, Member, Bangladesh Manabadhikar Sangbadik Forum (BMSF); GM Mourtaza, CEO, CCD Bangladesh; Saleem Samad, Correspondent, Reporter Without Borders (RSF).