News

August 17, 2021

Financial probe is latest form of harassment for Bangladeshi reporter

Rozina Islam (center) is escorted by a crowd of police officers on her way to a court in Dhaka on 18 May, 2021, a day after her arrest. The country's financial intelligence unit requested all her bank details on 11 August, 2021 (photo: Munir Uz Zaman / AFP).
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled to learn that the Bangladeshi government agency that combats money-laundering and the financing of terrorism has ordered an investigation into a well-known newspaper reporter. In the absence of relevant legislation, RSF calls for an immediate end to this probe and all other attempts to intimidate this journalist.

 The investigation ordered by the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU) is the latest form of governmental harassment of Rozina Islam, an investigative reporter for the country’s leading daily Prothom Alo.


RSF has learned that, on 11 August, the BFIU asked Bangladeshi banks to provide detailed statements of all transactions in any accounts held by Islam. The order is astonishing, to say the least, given that the BRIU’s own website says that the agency’s main objective is to “establish an effective system for prevention of money laundering, combating financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”


“In the light of all the circumstances, the requests from the BFIU concerning Rozina Islam go far beyond the scope of the agency's competence and it is therefore, clear that they are part of a new attempt to harass this journalist,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “We call for the immediate withdrawal of the requests made by the BFIU and, more broadly, for an end to the growing harassment of this journalist by various government agencies.”


Islam was arbitrarily arrested and tortured by the police on 17 May as a result of an espionage accusation by the health ministry. As RSF reported at the time, everything indicates that the accusation was a reprisal for a series of investigative reports she had written about corruption within the Bangladeshi health system.


Since then, Islam has been subjected to repeated harassment – including the confiscation of her press card and passport – that prevents her from working freely as a journalist.


Bangladesh is ranked 152nd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.