Rozina’s arrest is ‘regrettable’, says Minister Momen

Minister of Foreign Affairs AK Abdul Momen has described the confinement of journalist Rozina Islam to a room in the Secretariat for five hours and her subsequent arrest on charges of “stealing” government documents as “regrettable and unacceptable”.

Published : 20 May 2021, 11:23 AM
Updated : 20 May 2021, 11:23 AM

“It is very unfortunate,” he said in response to a question from the media on Thursday. “Sheikh Hasina’s government is friendly to the media. We do not inhibit you. We have nothing to hide. What has happened is very unfortunate.”

“The Ministry of Health should manage it, but we can call this an unfortunate incident for the government.”

Responding to the question, the foreign minister said: “Perhaps you are right, we are getting a bad reputation because of the actions of a few. The foreign ministry has to face this. Many people will raise questions. We don’t want these kinds of incidents.”

On May 17, Rozina was confined to a room of the Secretariat’s Health Services Division for more than five hours over allegations of spiriting away important government documents and taking photos of the papers.

Journalists carry placards during demonstration at the SAARC Fountain in Dhaka’s Karwanbazar on Wednesday, May 19, 2021 demanding unconditional release of journalist Rozina Islam and the withdrawal of a case against her under the Official Secrets Act. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

Rozina denied any wrongdoing. Her colleagues said she might have been targeted for her reports on irregularities in the health ministry amid the coronavirus pandemic. Her family also complained that she was physically harassed while being held at the Secretariat.

A Dhaka court on Tuesday turned down a police plea to interrogate Rozina in their custody.

On Thursday, Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate Baki Billah heard Rozina’s bail petition, but deferred his decision on the matter to Sunday.

During the hearing, Foreign Minister Momen spoke to the media after meeting with South Korean Ambassador Lee Jang-keun at the state guesthouse Padma.

“As the matter is still pending in court, I can’t speak on it in detail. It is also outside my field. What I can say is that this is an unfortunate incident. We hope such incidents will not be repeated.”

Momen described Rozina’s confinement and arrest as “unwelcome and unacceptable”.

“We all want the news media to do big things in Bangladesh. Through you, we have heard the story of the pillows, of the Tk 100,000 betel tree and received the information on Shahed Karim. The government has taken action on all these matters.”

“You are helping the government and are also part of it. But, if any problematic situations develop, it becomes an issue for the government.”

Asked whether documents of the kind alleged to have been stolen by Rozina would have been with the Ministry of Health, Momen said it could have.

“Yes, they could have them. For example, the authorisation for co-production. They could have that information. I don’t know for sure, but it’s possible.”

“These may be secret matters, I don’t know. The health ministry will be able to tell you. But this is an unfortunate situation.”

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher