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Bangladesh Arrests Journalists Known for Fighting Corruption


Bangladeshi journalist Rozina Islam, center, is escorted by police to a court in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Tuesday, May 18, 2021. Police charged Islam of stealing and photographing sensitive state information. (AP Photo/Mahmud Hossain Opu)
Bangladesh Arrests Journalists Known for Fighting Corruption
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A journalist in Bangladesh known for her reporting on government corruption was arrested on charges of violating an official secrets act, officials said Tuesday.

The charges carry a possible death penalty.

Rozina Islam is a reporter for the leading Prothom Alo newspaper. She is charged with using her cellphone without permission to photograph documents related to government negotiations to buy coronavirus vaccines. The government said she was waiting in a room of a government official involved in the negotiations when she took the photos. The Associated Press has seen the document that lays out the charges.

Islam is known for reporting on corruption involving the Ministry of Health and others. Several of her recent stories have reported on the millions of dollars spent to buy health equipment to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Islam’s sister said she was held for more than five hours late Monday in the Ministry of Health. Her family added that she was physically and mentally harassed while being held.

Islam was then handed over to Dhaka Metropolitan Police to face charges under the Secrets Act. A police official confirmed that she was charged with theft and photographing of state documents.

The charges carry a possible death penalty, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in a statement.

Maidul Islam Prodhan is a spokesman for the health ministry. He said Islam took photos of “important” documents. He added that “She was also taking away some documents” over the objections of two workers at that time.

Islam appeared in court on Tuesday. Police asked to hold her for questioning for five days and defense lawyers asked for her release on bail.

The judge rejected both requests and sent her to jail until her next court appearance on Thursday, a defense lawyer said.

Journalists groups in Bangladesh and the CPJ demanded her release. A CPJ representative said the charges were brought under a “colonial-era law that carries ridiculously harsh penalties.”

Earlier this month, the New York-based group Human Rights Watch said Bangladeshi journalists are risking arrest, torture and harassment under a widely used Digital Security Act.

It said at least 247 journalists were reportedly subjected to attacks, harassment and intimidation by the government in 2020. More than 900 cases were brought under the Digital Security Act, with nearly 1,000 people charged and 353 detained, many of them journalists, it said.

I’m Susan Shand.

The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

journalist – n. :the activity or job of collecting, writing, and editing news stories for newspapers, magazines, television, or radio

harass – v. to annoy or bother (someone) in a constant or repeated way

bail – n. an amount of money given to a court to allow a prisoner to leave jail and return later for a trial

ridiculous – adj. extremely silly or unreasonable

harsh – adj. unpleasant and difficult to accept or experience

intimidation – n. to make (someone) afraid

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