Media advocacy groups are calling for police in Bangladesh to release photographer Shahidul Alam from jail after he was arrested for making “provocative comments” about protests in the country.
Reclaim Photo issued a statement to the Bangladeshi authorities calling for Alam’s release. The National Press Photographers Association joined in signing the statement, along with other groups and individuals supporting press freedoms. Individuals can also sign a change.org petition for the release of Alam.
The statement points out that Alam is a respected photographer, citizen and photographer who has worked for decades throughout Southeast Asia. The statement also defends a free press:
“It should not be a crime to be a journalist. It should not be a crime to speak your opinions peaceably. By silencing the journalists of your country, you continue a dangerous trend that threatens the lives of thousands who seek merely to inform and serve the people of our world. We implore you, do not attack this person whose life’s work provides a vital function in society. We ask this not only for the sake of the individual but also for the sake of freedom and the of all people to have access to information that affects their lives. That is the work of every journalist. That has been Shahidul’s work for his country, his people, for all of us.”
The NPPA advocates for journalists and against laws that repress media.
“Over the past few days we have seen and heard reports of violent assaults of journalists in Dhaka,” said NPPA President Michael P. King. “It is abundantly clear that Section 57 of Bangladesh’s Information and Communications Act is ripe for abuse and endangers all who practice journalism of any kind in that country. We stand arm in arm with the international journalism community to condemn such treatment of photographers and reporters seeking to inform their fellow citizens, and to call for the immediate release of Mr. Alam and the dismissal of charges against him."
The Committee to Protect Journalists also separately called for the release of Alam.
"Authorities should immediately release Shahidul Alam without charge, as well as take swift steps to halt broader attacks on the press by holding the perpetrators accountable," said Steven Butler, CPJ's Asia program coordinator, in Washington D.C.
The Dhaka Tribune reported that Alam had posted live on Facebook to discuss confrontations in the Jigatola area between police and students demonstrating for safer roads. Alam was arrested at his home in Dhaka and according to an information report, was with using “electronic media to instigate disorder in the country and spread fabricated information and rumors via social media.”
Alam, 63, was arrested by a group of 20 plainclothes officers Sunday evening, according to The Guardian. Alam’s friends told The Guardian that the photographer was unable to walk on his won at his court appearance on Monday and had blood on him because he had been beaten.
Alam is a veteran photographer having worked in photojournalism for four decades. His work has appeared in major publications, and he founded the Drik Gallery and the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute that has trained hundreds of photographers.