Bangladesh Journalist’s Arrest Highlights Growing Curbs on Press Freedom

Around 3:30 pm on May 17, Prothom Alo senior correspondent and investigative reporter Rozina Islam visited the Health Ministry in Dhaka to meet the Health Services Division Secretary and perform her duties as a diligent reporter covering the nooks and crannies of Bangladesh’s COVID-19 response. After a few hours, strange news broke out that Rozina had been detained in the Health Ministry without any official arrest warrant issued by the authorities.

Journalists from around the city rushed to the Health Ministry and protested, demanding Rozina’s release. After spending five hours detained inside the building, Rozina was handed over to the police. The Health Ministry lodged a case under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, accusing Rozina of espionage. In the following days, journalists throughout the country protested the government’s actions and demanded Rozina’s immediate release.

According to the complaint filed by the authorities, an on-duty police officer in the Secretariat saw Rozina in the Health Services Division secretary’s office around 2:55 p.m. Immediately, officials, including Additional Secretary Kazi Jebunnesa Begum and the secretary’s aide Saiful Islam, rushed into the office and questioned Rozina about her motives.