The Right to Information Act 2009 was legislated as a people-oriented and progressive law. It is an act to make citizens aware about their right to know information. Certainly, it was colliding with the already existing law - The Official Secrets Act of 1923.
Hence, we informed the government then that there is no need for this Official Secrets Act. However, we were told that as it is not for ordinary people and has not been applied for years, its existence would not affect much.
From the very beginning, we said it was unnecessary but the government kept it for the officials. It was beyond our imagination that it will ever be used against our journalists. I am utterly surprised that Rozina Islam has been arrested under this law.
It has been said that she has taken photos of secret information. But information is only classified when the government publishes an official gazette for that and this is clearly mentioned in the Official Secrets Act.
This Official Secrets Act is applied all over the world for government officials and there are some logical reasons behind it. Though I must say, its application in this case is nothing but misuse. It has been used to deprive the right of a journalist.
Any file at the Secretariat cannot be considered a "secret". Was the information classified? As far as I know, it was not a classified document; it might have been a draft or an open document.
If not, it is public property and people have the right to know this information. Rozina was performing her duties. Perhaps, she was trying to shed some light on an open document which government officials were trying to hide.
Moreover, if she has done something wrong, she should have been handed over to the law enforcement authorities instantly. Why was she humiliated and assaulted at the Secretariat? It has violated our human rights too and sadly it happened at the Secretariat.
Rozina was assaulted and arrested on assumption. There is no certainty that this information would have been published. How do they file a case against her? Rather, the government could have accused the newspaper as guilty once the news was published. Such incidents are unacceptable.
The writer is the former president of Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalist