Bangladeshi journalist arrested and charged over alleged document theftBangladeshi journalist arrested and charged over alleged document theft  Posted By :


One of Bangladesh’s most prominent investigative journalists, known for her anti-corruption reporting and criticism of the government’s response to Covid-19, has been arrested and charged under the country’s Official Secrets Act.

Rozina Islam, 42, a senior investigative journalist at the Bengali daily Prothom Alo appeared before a Dhaka court on Tuesday morning charged with stealing official health ministry documents . The court turned down the police’s appeal that she be remanded in their custody to be interrogated.

Islam’s family claim she suffered physical assaults and “mental torture” at the hands of officials while she was detained for five hours in the room of a personal assistant at the health ministry before being moved to a police station in Dhaka.

She now faces criminal charges under the Penal Code and Official Secrets Act for the theft and photographing of sensitive state documents. According to the court documents seen by the Guardian, the documents Islam has been accused of stealing are said to concern the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines.

While being taken to the jail from the courts, Islam briefly told reporters that she is facing charges because of her anti-corruption reporting. “I am being wronged because of reports against the health ministry,” she told journalists.

Islam’s reporting has been critical of the Bangladeshi government’s handling of the pandemic, including investigations into bribery and corruption in the recruitment of medical staff and irregularities in the health ministry’s procurement.

The health ministry denied that Islam was harmed while being held there and that protests by her family outside the ministry delayed her being moved to the police station.

Islam’s arrest has caused outrage in the wider media community and among human rights groups who have demanded her immediate release.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on Bangladeshi authorities to immediately release her.

“We are deeply alarmed that Bangladesh officials detained a journalist and filed a complaint under a draconian colonial-era law that carries ridiculously harsh penalties,” said Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia researcher in a statement.

Islam’s bail hearing has been set for Thursday and she remains in detention.