Prothom Alo journalist Rozina Islam, who faced threats and harassment and was also imprisoned for writing investigative reports on irregularities in the health sector during the Covid-19 pandemic, received the Free Press Award.

Last year, Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, who got Nobel in Peace this year, also had received the Free Press Award, given by the Netherlands-based organisation "Free Press Unlimited", which works for media freedom and the development of journalism in more than 40 countries.


Free Press Unlimited conferred the award on Rozina in the "Most Resilient Journalist Award 2021" category at The Hague on Tuesday evening (Bangladesh time 12:15am today). Its monetary value is 7,500 Euros. Meanwhile, Indian journalist Bhat Burhan received an award in the Newcomer of the Year category.

In a declaration, Free Press Unlimited said a lot of talented and brave journalists' names were proposed for the award.

"We have found that free media and journalists face unbelievable pressure. We are amazed by the integrity of journalists worldwide, who continue to do journalism despite pressures. We are proud to confer the Free Press Awards to you [Rozina Islam]," it said.

Explaining why Rozina was given the award, the organisation said she is playing a courageous role in upholding the peoples' right to information despite various obstacles.

The jury of the award said Rozina is a good example of how independent journalists work as observers for the people and make contributions in protecting democracy and ensuring accountability in the society.

The announcement also said Rozina works for Bangladesh's largest newspaper, Prothom Alo, as an investigative journalist. She reported on the irregularities of the health sector and is now facing trial and harassment in her own country.

In May this year, Rozina was confined to a room of the health ministry for six hours. Later, a case was filed against her under the Official Secrets Act and she was arrested. After a week of imprisonment, she was freed on bail.

Noting the incident, the jury said, "We are expressing solidarity with the struggle of the journalist in revealing irregularities during the crisis period of the coronavirus pandemic… We are calling for the Bangladesh government to stop harassment to Rozina Islam."

While arresting Rozina, police seized her passport, mobile phone and accreditation card, and she is yet to get those back. Therefore, she could not travel to the Hague. In her stead, her husband Md Monirul Islam received the award at the City Hall in the Hague.

Rozina Islam has been working for Prothom Alo for more than a decade.

She has reported on various issues including those related to health, the Liberation War, public administration, crime, environment, power and energy, economy, education and women in politics.

Rozina had earlier received a number of awards, which include Dhaka Reporters Unity Best Reporting Award in years 2021, 2017, 2014 and 2011; UNESCO Award in 2011, UNESCO Club Journalists Award in 2006, Canadian Awards for Excellence in Bangladeshi Journalism in 2011, Prothom Alo Best Reporters Award in years 2013 and 2014, Anti-Drug Best Reporting Award in 2017; and the Bangladesh Mahila Parishad Award and Transparency International Bangladesh's Best Investigative Reporting Award in 2015.