Hours after detention for allegedly taking snapshots of an official document at the Secretariat, a case has been filed against Prothom Alo’s Senior Reporter Rozina Islam under the Official Secrets Act.
Health Services Division’s (HSD) Deputy Secretary Sibbir Ahmed Osmani filed the case with Shahbagh police station on Monday midnight, said Harunur Rashid, additional deputy commissioner (Ramna Division) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police.
Two more charges were brought against the senior journalist under 379 and 411 sections of the penal code.
Case statement and what laws say
According to the case statement, Rozina Islam entered the office of the HSD secretary at the Secretariat in absence of the official around 2:55pm on Monday. Later, she took some documents and took snapshots of some of those with her mobile phone.
When the on-duty police personnel barred her from taking snapshots, she identified herself as journalist. At one stage, other senior officials came to the spot and recovered some documents searching her and confiscated her mobile phone.
It is apparent that she was stealing the important state documents away, the deputy secretary alleged.
He also mentioned that the process of formulating draft of various deals and agreements is underway regarding the procurement of vaccine from different countries.
There have been frequent transactions of email and letters over the deals. Different important information of the state was also there, he added.
Rozina captured some of those important documents. There is fear that Bangladesh’s relation with the respective countries may get harmed, if the documents are disclosed publicly, said the case statement.
The Official Secrets Act states that no person shall, except under the authority of a written permit granted by or on behalf of the government, make any photograph, sketch, plan, model, note or representation of any kind of any prohibited place or of any other place or area, notified by the government as a place or area with regard to which such restriction appears to be expedient in the interests of the security of Bangladesh or of any part of or object in any such place or area.
If any person contravenes any of the provisions of this section, s/he shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine or with both, the act added.
Besides, punishment for theft under 379 – Whoever commits theft shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
Section 411 of penal code states – Whoever dishonestly receives or retains any stolen property, knowing or having reason to believe the same to be stolen property, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
What happened to Rozina Islam
Rozina Islam was detained for allegedly taking snapshots of an official document at the Secretariat without due permission.
The incident took place on Monday afternoon when Rozina went to the health ministry inside the Secretariat as part of professional duty around 3:30pm. At one stage, she was locked in a room there and her mobile phone was confiscated.
After receiving the news of Rozina’s detention, journalists from different media outlets rushed to the spot. When they asked the ministry officials, they did not tell why Rozina was detained.
Later, many journalists took position outside the Secretariat and protested the harassment and detention of Rozina Islam.
At one stage, Rozina fell sick inside the office and was taken to Shahbagh Police Station around 8pm, after around five hours of detention.
What do Prothom Alo authorities say
Prothom Alo deputy editor Anisul Hoque said that they will go for legal battle as a case has already been filed over the incident.
Describing the media as the fifth pillar of the state, he said, “Democracy get harmed if the press freedom is not ensured.”
“Freedom of speech and media is recognised as basic rights by the Constitution,” he mentioned.
He also noted that Rozina has long been doing investigative journalism and some of her write ups have been discussed widely across the country in the recent days.
What happened to Rozina will not brighten the government’s image, rather it will inspire the corrupt officials, he said, mentioning that press freedom is necessary for not only journalists, but also for the government, country and its people.
About the poor health condition of Rozina Islam, he said it is most regretful if a state does not become humane.
Journalists stage protest demanding her immediate release
Journalists from different media outlets staged protest inside Shahbagh police station demanding immediate release of Rozina Islam, and resignation of health minister and secretary.
Besides, leaders of journalists’ organizations also condemned the harassment.
After receiving the news of Rozina Islam’s detention, journalists from different media outlets went to the health ministry but health officials did not say anything about why Rozina had been confined for so long. Later, journalists gathered outside the secretariat and protested the harassment and detention of Rozina Islam, reports Prothom Alo.
According to the journalists, who were present at the secretariat, Rozina Islam looked visibly ill when police took her to Shahbagh Police Station around 8:30pm from the secretariat.
The journalists tried to get a statement from the health secretary on the detention of Rozina Islam but no statement was provided.
Later, Maidul Islam, information officer at the health ministry, told reporters that a complaint has been lodged against Rozina Islam for taking photos of some documents.
According to police, Rozina Islam was taken to Shahbagh Police Station following the complaint filed by the health ministry, added the Prothom Alo.