ARTICLE 19, a UK-based international human rights organization, applauds the Bangladesh authorities for clearing Rozina Islam, a Bangladeshi investigative journalist, of the charges made under the Official Secrets Act of 1923.
"The rights body also hopes that the learned court would accept the final probe report submitted by the authorities in the case and acquit Rozina of this vexatious case in order to ensure justice for her," read a media release on Wednesday.
According to the media report, over a year after Rozina was sued by the Health Services Division official for allegations of stealing and capturing photos of "highly sensitive" government documents, the Investigation Officer of the case on 4 July 2022 submitted the final report to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court of Dhaka, praying to it for relieving Rozina of the charges, the PR said.
In the probe report, the investigator said no evidence was found against Rozina and the case was a matter of factual error.
In a statement sent to the media, Faruq Faisel, Regional Director for ARTICLE 19 South Asia, said: 'We welcome the findings of the probe report and firmly believe Rozina will get justice from the court as well. The vexatious case has tarnished the image of the country in the international arena and called into question its commitment – as a UN member state - to upholding media freedom and protecting journalists. We further hope, even if it is late, those involved in filing this case will come to their senses and no longer obstruct the path of justice for Rozina Islam to get it.''
Rozina, who investigated stories of government corruption and mismanagement of the health sector in Bangladesh during the Covid pandemic, was arrested on 17th May 2021, after a meeting at the Ministry of Health.
Following her arrest, she was held for six hours in confinement, where she suffered physical and mental harassment. Since then, Rozina has been facing charges of up to 14 years in prison or even the death penalty, although She walked out of jail on bail almost a week after her arrest.
However, the filing of the case against her drew flak from netizens and a cross-section of people. It also triggered strong protests from journalists and different local and international organizations.
Faruq Faisel said, ''The charges brought against Rozina are based on a law that should never have been used against journalists, as it impedes their right to access information and directly contradicts the right to free expression, enshrined in the Constitution. As the outdated law is abused to harass a journalist, we demand action from the Government and the policymakers to abolish the Official Secrets Act of 1923.''