Senior reporter of the daily Prothom Alo newspaper Rozina Islam, who is facing a case filed under the Official Secrets Act by the Health Ministry, has won this year’s Free Press Award for courageous journalism.
She won the award under the “Most Resilient Journalist 2021” category, announced late Tuesday.
Amsterdam-based Free Press Unlimited awards the journalists in two categories every year – “Most Resilient Journalist” and “Newcomer of the Year”.
Young Indian journalist Bhat Burhan was awarded in the “Newcomer of the Year” category.
The Netherlands Foreign Ministry provides support to the organization.
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The organization said Rozina Islam was awarded because of her great courage and perseverance.
As an investigative journalist working for the largest daily newspaper in Bangladesh, she has “uncovered wrongdoings in her country’s health spending and is now facing trial and tribulation in her country,” said the organization.
Last year this award was bestowed upon the Philippine journalist Maria Ressa, who won the Nobel Prize this year.
Free Press Unlimited works in over 40 countries of the world for press freedom and excellence in journalism. They have link with over 90 media organizations worldwide.
The awards were announced at the City Hall in The Hague.
Rozina Islam could not join the award-giving program at The Hague since her passport had been seized as a condition of her release on bail.
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Md Monirul Islam, husband of Rozina Islam, received the award on behalf of her from renowned Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir at the program, said the Prothom Alo.
Rozina Islam attended the program virtually. She said: “I dedicate this award to those journalists of the country who are carrying out journalism amid hostility. When I walked out of jail, I vowed to continue journalism. And after receiving this award, I am reiterating my vow that my fight will continue.”
On May 17, authorities arrested Rozina Islam for allegedly taking pictures of sensitive official documents related to Covid-19 vaccine purchase and other deals at its Secretariat office. She was released on bail on May 23.
Rozina Islam has frequently reported on alleged corruption and mismanagement of the health sector’s Covid-19 response.
If charged and convicted, she could face up to 14 years in prison or the death penalty, according to the law.
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On September 19, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court in Dhaka rejected her request for the return of her two mobile phones and press identification card, which were seized during her arrest, and her passport.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU) of the central bank on August 11 ordered all scheduled banks to provide details of any accounts associated with Rozina Islam.
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