Journalist harassed at Secretariat for 5 hours | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 18, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 08:12 AM, May 18, 2021

Journalist harassed at Secretariat for 5 hours

Sued under official secrets act; rights bodies slam her detention

Prothom Alo Senior Correspondent Rozina Islam was kept confined at the health ministry for more than five hours yesterday before being handed to police.

It happened after the journalist went to the Secretariat to perform her duties.

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While being confined to a ministry room at the Secretariat, Rozina fell sick. She was not taken to any hospital. She was sent to Shahbagh Police Station. She was still there when this report was filed last night.

Police later said the journalist of the Bangla daily was sued under the Official Secrets Act.

Shibbir Ahmed Osmani, deputy secretary of health services division under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, filed the case with Shahbagh Police Station last night.

Harun Or Rashid, additional deputy commissioner (Ramna Division) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), confirmed the development to The Daily Star.

Talking to journalists around 11:00pm, the police official said Rozina was arrested in the case.

Rozina Islam has been charged under sections 379 and 411 of the Penal Code and sections 3 and 5 of the Official Secrets Act, he said. The officer also said she would be produced before court tomorrow.

As the news that Rozina was harassed spread, journalists rushed to the Secretariat yesterday afternoon. They also started staging protests in front of the police station after 9:00pm, demanding Rozina's immediate release.

Different local and international organisations, including Committee to Protest Journalists (CPJ) and Amnesty International, also issued statements protesting the incident.

Like any other day, Rozina went to the Secretariat yesterday to discharge her professional duties. Around 3:00pm, journalists on the Secretariat beat came to know that she was confined to the office room of health services division secretary's personal secretary.

The journalists tried to reach her but failed. They came to know that Rozina's cell phone was taken away. Later, police were called and they surrounded her.

Rozina was confined there for more than five hours. At one stage, she fell sick and collapsed on the floor. Journalists present at the Secretariat said Rozina was harassed.

Although the media wanted to know why the journalist was confined to the room, health ministry officials did not say anything. Despite being approached repeatedly, Health Services Secretary Lokman Hossain Miah did not meet or speak to reporters.

Other journalists joined them, hearing the news, and protested the confinement. They also demanded that Rozina be taken to a hospital.

Amid this situation, Rozina was taken to Shahbagh Police Station around 8:30pm in a police vehicle.

Later, the health ministry's Information Officer Maidul Islam Prodhan came out of the secretary's room and told reporters that a complaint had been lodged against Rozina with the police station for taking pictures of some documents and taking some papers.

Police later said that journalist Rozina was brought to the police station following a complaint from the health ministry.

PROTESTS

Scathing criticism and protests followed the detention of the senior journalist.

Expressing protest, different local and international organisations, including CPJ, Amnesty International (AI), Jatiya Press Club, Dhaka Reporters Unity, Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists, Dhaka Union of Journalists, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), and the Jatiya Party and different dignitaries demanded immediate release of Rozina.

CPJ, a New York-based organisation working for the rights of journalists around the world, expressed deep concern over the arrest.

CPJ said Rozina went to the Secretariat in Bangladesh to perform her professional duties. CPJ called for her immediate release.

Human Rights group AI termed the arrest of journalist Rozina Islam while carrying out her professional duty a blow to freedom of the press. In a tweet, it called on the authorities to release Rozina unconditionally and quickly.

Jatiya Press Club President Farida Yasmin said Rozina Islam is unique in investigative journalism. She has international recognition. It is unjust for such a journalist to be confined for hours while performing her professional duties.

"There is a need for a proper investigation into the reason for her confinement and the fact that she was not taken to the hospital even after she fell ill. We need to find out who was responsible for harassing Rozina," she also said.

M Abdullah, president of a faction of Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists, said the way Rozina was treated was a heinous act. The journalist community is worried, angry and surprised by this incident. It is a reflection of the continuing aggression against independent and investigative journalism and the free media.

Mursalin Nomani and Mosiur Rahman Khan, president and general secretary of Dhaka Reporters' Unity, strongly condemned and protested the harassment of Rozina. They demanded her immediate release and called for an investigation to find out those responsible for the incident.

Sajjad Alam Khan, general secretary of Dhaka Union of Journalist, said the government should ensure that no innocent journalist is harassed.

Jatiya Party Chairman GM Quader has strongly condemned the arrest and harassment of Rozina Islam.

In a statement, he said an impartial investigation was needed in this regard.

"The harassment she faced is very shameful. It is the responsibility of the state to ensure independent journalism and the safety of journalists."

Dr Fauzia Moslem and Maleka Banu, president and general secretary of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad strongly condemned harassment of journalist Rozina while carrying out her professional duty.

ASK condemned the confinement and harassment of Rozina Islam. In a statement, ASK said Rozina Islam was working to ensure the people's right to information through objective news coverage. In her reports, she highlighted various corruptions and irregularities of the health ministry. Undoubtedly, these reports have played an important role in ensuring good governance and accountability in the health sector. It is not acceptable to detain such a journalist in the course of her professional work.

"The arrest of Rozina will set a very bad precedent for the freedom of the media and the professionalism of journalists, which is by no means expected," ASK said. 

 

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