This week on Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up – friend, photographer and activist Shahidul Alam’s arrest in Bangladesh sparks global criticism. Let’s work together to #freeShahidulAlam.
Shahidul Alam Arrested in Bangladesh
I met award-winning photographer and activist Shahidul Alam a few years ago in Sydney. Since then I’ve interviewed him and we’ve corresponded on numerous occasions. He’s a generous soul and has been a wonderful support for my PhD research.
I was shocked to learn of his arrest in Dhaka on Sunday following the airing of a TV interview with Al Jazeera where he criticised, with good reason, the Bangladeshi government’s violent and extreme handling of the peaceful student protests. These protests were sparked by the death of two teenagers killed by a speeding bus. Bangladesh has one of the highest road tolls in the world.
Reports vary claiming between 20 to 30 plainclothes officers stormed his building and removed him forcibly. They tied up security guards and disabled CCTV cameras removing visual evidence. 63 year-old Alam was beaten and has been remanded for seven days. Earlier this week he was transported to hospital for a brief period before being returned to detention.
Since news of his arrest there have been numerous articles in the press, both in Dhaka and in the west including Al Jazeera, TIME, The Guardian and the Sydney Morning Herald. Social media has lit up with calls for his immediate release. Amnesty International has weighed in as have the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting.
The Washington Post reported that “a police official, Moshiur Rahman, told Agence France-Presse that Alam had been brought in on Monday morning. “We are interrogating him for giving false information to different media and for provocative comments. And he could not give proper answers. He admitted that these are his personal opinions,” Rahman said, according to AFP.”
Alam has been charged with violating Bangladesh’s Information Communications Technology Act which outlaws any electronic communication that “tends to deprave or corrupt” the image of the state. He is being questioned over his Facebook posts. If he is convicted he faces between 7 to 14 years in jail.
Amnesty International wrote: “Police remands in Bangladesh are notorious for involving unlawful force leading to torture, other cruel or inhuman treatment and custodial death. When he appeared in court, Shahidul Alam was unable to walk, raising concerns about his health and well-being.”
Bangladesh news site the Daily Star reported that, “Over 500 academics, writers, artists, activists and journalists from around the world — including Noam Chomsky, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Patrick Farrell and celebrated writer Bapsi Sidhwa — condemned the detention and alleged torture of photojournalist Shahidul Alam, and demanded his immediate release.
“Shahidul Alam’s detention underlines the growing crackdown on dissenting voices in Bangladesh, in a pattern that is visible elsewhere too,” said their statement published on the website of well-known Pakistani journalist and blogger Beena Sarwar. The signatories demanded that the government drop all charges against Shahidul, ensure his medical treatment and that he be released immediately.”
Alam is the founder of Drik Library and the Pathshala South Asian Media Academy as well as being co-founder of Majority World an agency representing more than 300 photographers from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. He is also the director of the first international festival of photography in Asia, Chobi Mela.
This week photographs of other photojournalists being attacked on the streets of Dhaka while trying to do their jobs have also surfaced. What’s happening in Dhaka is a direct attack on press freedom. Bangladesh has one of the lowest rankings in the world when it comes to freedom of the press, and this escalation of violence is a worrying trend.
What can we do to help Shahidul Alam?
Amnesty International suggests the following:
Please write immediately in English or Bangla or in your own language urging the authorities to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release Shahidul Alam, who is a prisoner of conscience, and drop all charges as he has been detained solely for peacefully exercising his human right to freedom of expression;
- Ensure that activists, human rights defenders, journalists, academics and members of the political opposition and other members of the public are able to peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 18 SEPTEMBER 2018 TO:
Minister of Home Affairs Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal Bangladesh Secretariat Dhaka
Mobile: +880 1 71 154 1569
Tel: +880 2 957 4800
Fax: +880 2 913 3498
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Salutation: Honourable Home Minister
Inspector General of Police Mohammad Javed Patwary Police Headquarters Dhaka, Bangladesh
Tel: +880 2 951 4444;
+880 2 951 4445
Fax: +880 2 712 5840
Salutation: Dear Inspector General
With copies to:
Political Affairs Advisor to Bangladesh Prime Minister
Prime Minister’s Office Dhaka
Tel: +880 2 912 9997
E-mail: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.
Let’s play our part in helping to #freeShahidulAlam and bombard these officials with calls for his immediate release.