Detained anti-graft woman journalist gets bail in Bangladesh

Dhaka, May 23 (EFE).- A Bangladesh court on Sunday granted bail to a female investigative reporter a week after she was arrested on charges of stealing confidential government documents.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate of Dhaka granted bail to Rozina Islam on a bond of Taka 5,000 ($58), according to her lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua.

“The prosecution demanded she submit her passport to the court before being granted bail. We said we don’t have any objection to that. The court later granted her bail,” Barua told EFE.

Islam, 42, a senior reporter with Prothom Alo newspaper, one of the largest circulated in the country was arrested on Monday after police charged her with a colonial-era law, the Official Secrets Act.

She gained limelight for her reporting on corruption in Bangladesh’s health sector during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Islam’s family members and colleagues alleged she was detained for several hours at the Bangladesh secretariat and tortured physically and mentally after she went there for regular reporting duty.

Bangladesh’s Health Ministry alleged that the reporter was illegally taking snaps of confidential state documents on her phone at the ministry office.

Most of the documents obtained from her were related to Bangladesh’s vaccine purchase deal with two foreign countries, the ministry had informed through public statement after her arrest triggered an outcry and protests from the journalists community.

“It’s a relief that she was granted bail. We now demand the withdrawal of the case against her and end of all harassment against journalists. We also demand a trial of people who had harassed her,” Moshiur Rahman, general secretary of Dhaka Reporters Unity – the largest platform of reporters in Dhaka -, told EFE.

The use of the 1923 Official Secrets Act against a journalist is rare.

But rights group Amnesty International said the Bangladesh government continued to use the “draconian” Digital Security Act 2018 to suppress the right to freedom of expression and to target and harass journalists and human rights defenders.

State agencies and individuals affiliated with the government allegedly attacked, harassed, and intimidated nearly 250 journalists in 2020, it said in a recent report. EFE


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