Health Ministry officials turned Rozina over to police on Monday after confining her at the Secretariat for five hours
At least 57 eminent citizens of the country have condemned the harassment of Prothom Alo reporter Rozina Islam at the Secretariat on Monday, and demanded exemplary punishment of those involved in the incident.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, they have also demanded immediate withdrawal of the motivated case filed against her under the infamous Official Secrets Act and Bangladesh Penal Code, her release, and proper treatment.
“We have noticed with deep concern and outrage that Rozina Islam, a senior reporter of Prothom Alo, went to the Secretariat on May 17 to collect information and was detained for several hours by some officials of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare,” the statement read.
“She was physically and mentally harassed and handed over to the police. While in police custody, an official from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare filed a case against Rozina under some of the provisions of the Penal Code and the infamous Official Secrets Act,” it added.
“Today, on May 18, 2021, the court rejected the remand application but ordered to send Rozina to jail. Today, Rozina is being held in prison by the officials of the Health Ministry for preparing a report on the right to human health. We find this situation sad and extremely unacceptable,” they said in the statement.
“Rozina Islam, a senior reporter of Prothom Alo, is well-established as a skilled and dedicated journalist. From her report, we learned about the irresponsibility, corruption, and irregularities in various government offices, including the Health Ministry and and the Directorate General of Health Services, for which she has been awarded many prizes, both public and private,” the statement continued.
Her various reports, especially during the coronavirus crisis, have also played an important role in ensuring good governance and accountability in the health sector, they said.
“We feel that the aforesaid heinous incident against Rozina Islam has undermined the independent journalism, human rights, and human dignity of the people of this country. Those who have been infuriated by Rozina Islam for practicing media freedom and publishing reports against various corruptions and irregularities, have harassed Rozina Islam today and filed a case against her to silence honest journalism in this country,” the statement read.
“In light of the news of rampant corruption in the Ministry of Health in the past, we also feel that the release of official documents is in many cases more necessary in public interest and there can be no law or legal explanation against it in a democratic state,” they said.
Every citizen has the right to know this information, especially in the context of an epidemic, and under the guise of colonial law, there is no scope to infringe on that right on the basis of fabricated allegations, the statement read.
“We strongly condemn all incidents of harassment, harassment and arrest of Rozina Islam and demand immediate withdrawal of the motivated case filed against her, her release and proper treatment,” the press release said.
“At the same time, we demand the temporary dismissal of the identified officials and the arrest and trial of all the guilty government officials and others in the Health Ministry, subject to impartial investigation, based on the news and pictures of the physical abuse of Rozina, that have been published in various media including social media,” they said.
“The government's stance against the publication of the truth through the arrest of journalist Rozina and its oppressive message is completely contradictory to the constitution and the spirit of independence,” it read.
“We also remind the government of its constitutional responsibility to uphold independent journalism and freedom of expression in this country and urge the repeal of all laws and regulations that impede independent journalism, including the Official Secrets Act and the Digital Security Act,” they said.
The eminent citizens include -- Educationist Prof Serajul Islam Chowdhury, former advisors to the caretaker government Sultana Kamal, Rasheda K Chowdhury, Hafiz Uddin Khan, Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, economist Devpriya Bhattacharya, human rights activist Hameeda Hossain, former cabinet secretary Ali Imam Majumder, Khushi Kabir, coordinator of Nijera Kori, Shujan's chief Dr Badiul Alam Majumder, Executive Director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Dr Iftekharuzzaman, Gonoshasthya Kendra’s Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, Bangladesh Supreme Court lawyers Shahdeen Malik, Sara Hossain, Chief Executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association Syeda Rizwana Hasan, Professor Ali Riaz, Professor Swapan Adnan, Photographer Shahidul Alam, Executive Director of Association of Land Reform and Development (ALRD) Shamsul Huda, and Jahangirnagar University Professor Anu Muhammad.
11 others condemn assault on journo
Eleven eminent citizens of Bangladesh have condemned the assault on Prothom Alo Senior Correspondent Rozina Islam by the Health Ministry officials at the Secretariat when she was collecting information.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, they also condemned the case filed against Islam over "stealing” classified information.
"In this situation, we demand the government enquire the reason behind the incident and also identify those who assaulted Rozina Islam, and conduct an investigation on their activities," the statement read.
"We hope that the government will be considerate to withdraw the case filed against Rozina Islam and release her from jail," it added.
They mentioned that the public and government are working together to tackle the Covid-19 crisis in the country.
The health workers and Health Ministry are playing a significant role in this regard, the statement read.
But simultaneously, the government was embarrassed following irregularities by some employees and officials of the Health Ministry on different occasions and has taken action against them, they said.
In those cases, the government was benefitted due to investigative reports by journalists like Rozina Islam.
Cultural personality and freedom fighter Nasiruddin Yousuff, journalist and political analyst Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury, writer and historian Prof Muntassir Mamoon, writer-journalist Shahriar Kabir, media personalities Ramendu Majumdar, Hasan Azizul Haque, Anupom Sen, Sarwar Ali, Mofidul Haque, Mamunur Rashid, and Abdus Salim were the signatories of the statement.