Leaked ‘conversation’: Tactics of vilifying the victim
The authorities that leaked the conversation have clearly violated the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, as this act infringed the daughter and father’s fundamental right to privacy guaranteed by Article 43 (b)
So the apprehension proves true. The heinous culture of defaming the victim is now at work against journalist Rozina Islam, known for investigative reports exposing graft in the administration.
With an ulterior motive to portray Rozina as a person with a “questionable character”, a telephone conversation of purportedly one of her colleagues with the latter’s father was leaked on social media.
In the conversation, the purported colleague was heard using some abusive words about Rozina which can be considered as defamation if used in public. She may have a personal or professional grudge against Rozina and shared her feelings while talking to her father. [As the words are defamatory, we refrain from printing those here.]
The conversation between a daughter and a father is completely a private matter. The state has no legal authorisation to intercept it. So, making the conversation public constitutes an offence.
Who did make the conversation public?
The government authorities have equipment to monitor and record telephone conversations. The only objective to do so is to either detect and nab criminals or foil any attempt of subversive activities with preemptive measures.
A large amount of taxpayers’ money has been spent to purchase the modern technology to build the system. Again, taxpayers’ money is being spent every day to keep the system operational to ensure safety and security of the citizens. Unfortunately, the system has been abused against the citizens without any overwhelming need.
No private citizen can intercept and record the telephone conversation of another person. So it is assumed that any of the authorities has intercepted, recorded, and leaked the father-daughter conversation.
In so doing, the authorities that leaked the conversation have clearly violated the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, as this act violated the daughter and father’s fundamental right to privacy guaranteed by the Constitution in Article 43 (b). Like the rest of the citizens of the country, they have the right to privacy of their correspondence and other means of communication.
This is also a naked attack on their freedom of speech, another fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution in Article 39. The authorities that leaked the conversation infringed Article 39 too.
Not only that, it also neglected its constitutional duty as Article 21 (2) says, “Every person in the service of the Republic has a duty to strive at all times to serve the people.”
How did it serve the daughter and father by leaking their personal conversation?
Those who work for the authorities that leaked the conversation are also citizens of Bangladesh, and being citizens it is their duty to obey the Constitution according to Article 21 (1).
Are they abiding by the Constitution?
Rozina was accused of committing an offence by photographing a so-called “confidential document” of the health ministry.
The way she was treated by the health ministry officials has violated the fundamental principles of the rule of law. She was kept confined at the health ministry for six hours. Video footage shows she was physically pinned down. Her personal cell phone was forcibly taken away and she was forced to give them the password of the phone. Thus her privacy was violated too. She was allegedly physically and mentally abused. The treatment with her was cruel, inhumane and degrading. Such treatment is constitutionally banned and constitutes a criminal offence under the anti-torture law of 2013.
The health ministry in a further step spent the taxpayers’ money in publishing advertisements in some newspapers to vilify Rozina. It labelled Rozina as a “thief” when the case is still under investigation. The advertisement triggered sharp reaction on social media against the news organisations that published the paid ads.
Alas! The health ministry and its officials bothered little about the Constitution, the anti-torture law and the rule of law as a whole.
Aren’t the people who leaked the telephone conversation and those who allegedly treated Rozina in an inhuman way aware of the laws of the land they must abide by? Didn’t they commit any offence? Are the people who are sharing the conversation on social media violating the digital security law?
Are they above the law? Aren’t they equal in the eyes of law and deserve equal treatment of the law according to the supreme law of the land?
The leakage of the said telephone conversation is a manifestation of the people in power bothering little about the laws.
In the past, telephone conversations of opposition political leaders and people critical to the authorities were frequently leaked to either defame them or to create grounds to take action against them.
No action was taken against the blatant disregard of the laws and abuse of powers.
After Rozina’s arrest, it was feared that attempts would be made to defame her reputation she earned through her investigative journalism exposing corruption in the administration. The leak of the said telephone conversation is just a part of the attempts apprehended by many. This is an archaic strategy of shooting the messenger who brings the bad news. And this is an archaic tool to muzzle freedom of the press and free speech.