Rozina Islam, an investigative reporter of Prothom Alo, was detained at the Health Ministry for about five hours on Monday while on duty at the Bangladesh Secretariat
At least a hundred Bangladeshi academics at different universities at home and abroad have condemned the illegal detention of Rozina Islam, an investigative reporter of Prothom Alo, at the Secretariat and demanded her immediate and unconditional release.
The University Teachers Network issued a statement on Wednesday where they made a four-point demand to the government.
Rozina Islam, an investigative reporter of Prothom Alo, was detained at the Health Ministry for about five hours on Monday while on duty at the Bangladesh Secretariat. Although she fell ill there, she was handed over to the police without any medical treatment. Police took her to the court the next morning which sent her to jail, they said.
“We are outraged by the whole incident. Rozina Islam's 'crime' is that she violated the British-era Official Secrets Act of 1923 and collected official information without permission. On the other hand, Bangladesh has the Right to Information Act 2009. According to this law, the right to get this official information not only belongs to the journalist but to any citizen,” the statement read.
“In this case, it is seen that the ministry is considering the colonial law instead of the current law. Section 32 of the infamous Digital Security Act has been formed based on this law. The government and its bureaucracy have thrown away the democratic mentality and turned towards colonial mentality instead,” they said.
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“We know and understand that the main 'crime' of Rozina Islam is different. She has consistently written several investigative reports on corruption of the Ministry of Health during the ongoing pandemic,” it said.
“We think that Rozina did not commit any crime. Rozina has identified the perpetrators in her report. In addition, ministry officials and employees committed crimes in Monday's incident - illegally detaining Rozina, physically abusing her, making her ill, depriving her of medical treatment, and, above all, obstructing her professional work,” they said.
“The whole process of convicting Rozina Islam wad one of horror and revenge. Forcibly detaining her is also a criminal offence,” they added.
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Following which the University Teachers Network placed four-point demands, which include:
- Rozina Islam must be released immediately and unconditionally
- Those who unjustly detained Rozina Islam and tortured her and obstructed her professional work must be brought to justice.
- The Official Secrets Act 1923 and the Digital Security Act 2016 should be repealed as obstacles to investigative journalism and freedom of expression in general, and
- The Ministry of Health has to publish a transparent report on corruption
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Some of the signatories among the university teachers include -- Assistant Prof Mahbubul Haque Bhuiyan, of Mass Communication and Journalism at Comilla University, Assistant Prof of English GH Habib at Chittagong University (CU), Prof Kaberi Gayen of Mass Communication and Journalism at Dhaka University (DU), Physics Prof Dr Kamrul Hassan at DU, Jagannath University’s English Prof Nasir Uddin Ahmed, Anthropology Prof Bokhtiar Ahmed of Rajshahi University, Jahangirnagar University (JU) Anthropology Prof Mahmudul H Sumon, DU International Relations Prof Mohammad Tanzimuddin Khan, economist Anu Muhammad of JU, Media Studies and Journalism Prof Din M Sumon Rahman of ULAB, Khulna University Environmental Science Prof Abdullah Harun Chowdhury, Prof Gitiara Nasreen of Mass Communication and Journalism at DU, among others.