‘Such a despicable attempt threatens the very existence of the press’
The Editors’ Council on Tuesday expressed concern over the jailing of Prothom Alo Senior Reporter Rozina Islam in a case filed under the Official Secrets Act, 1923 and said it would remain a black chapter in the history of journalism in Bangladesh.
In a statement, signed by its President Mahfuz Anam and General Secretary Naem Nizam, the editors’ body demanded the unconditional release of Rozina Islam as well as action against those involved in the incident.
“The Editors’ Council has been observing with deep concern that a case has been filed against Rozina Islam under the Official Secrets Act of 1923. The filing of a case against a journalist in this era under an act formulated during the British rule is the manifestation of the negative attitude and the evil mentality of the authorities concerned to gag newspapers,” the statement reads.
It also said this was an attempt to curtail press freedom as well as a threat to future independent journalism and the freedom of expression. “In a democratic society, such a despicable attempt threatens the very existence of the press and pushes the profession towards a challenge.”
Stating that Rozina Islam was held hostage in a room of the Health Ministry for about 6 hours at the Secretariat and harassed in various ways, the Council said stern action must be taken against those involved in such a deplorable incident. “The Editors’ Council thinks that this unprecedented incident will remain a black chapter in the history of journalism in Bangladesh.”
“It should be found out through an impartial investigation that under which law a journalist was kept confined in this way. Action must be taken against those responsible,” it said.
Earlier in the day, a Dhaka court sent Rozina, arrested in a case under the Official Secrets Act, to jail after rejecting the police's demand for her five-day remand.
She was arrested for allegedly attempting to illegally “collect sensitive government documents and taking photos of them” from the Secretariat on Monday.
The Prothom Alo journalist rejected all the allegations saying, "I was, in fact, harassed at the Secretariat”.