A group of plainclothes police forcibly removed photographer Shahidul Alam from his home in Dhaka on Sunday night. An official with the Dhaka Metropolitan Police detective branch later said that Alam, founder of the Pathshala Media Institute school and the photo agencies Drik and Majority World, was detained for interrogation over his social media posts and an interview concerning the protests by students in Bangladesh’s capital. Dhaka Tribune reported that he appeared court Monday August 6. The judge denied his lawyer’s request for bail and ordered him to police custody for seven days.
Update: A video posted to Facebook by Dhaka-based photographer Tuhshikur Rahman shows Alam unable to walk without assistance on his way to court, after he had been held for “interrogation.” He was returned to police custody after this morning’s bail hearing.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has called on Bangladesh authorities to immediately release Alam, but calls and emails to the police commissioner were not returned on Sunday night. CPJ also called on Bangladesh to ensure “all journalists covering unrest in Dhaka are able to work without fear of attack or arrest.” Several journalists, including AP photographer AM Ahaid, were beaten on Sunday by a gang, allegedly members of a pro-government student group, who wielded sticks and bats. Photojournalist Al Emrun Garjon said police stood by during the attacks.
On Sunday, Alam told Al Jazeera that the demonstrations in Dhaka, which began as a protest over unsafe road conditions, was about larger issues, including corruption and the silencing of journalists. “Today the police specifically asked for help from armed goons to combat unarmed students demanding safe roads,” Alam said in the interview.”The government has miscalculated. It thought that fear and repression would be enough but you cannot tame an entire nation in this manner.” Alam had recently posted images of the protests on social media.
A few hours after the Al Jazeera interview was broadcast, Alam’s partner, Rahnouma Ahmed, heard a scream in her apartment building. In a press release from Drik, she said the building’s security guards told her about 30 to 40 men in plain clothes had forced Alam into one of three unmarked cars. They also said the men had disabled the building’s closed circuit cameras.
Press advocates and Alam’s colleagues around the world have been sharing Alam’s photo with the hashtag #freeshahidulalam to put pressure on authorities to release him unharmed.
Alam has long been an outspoken advocate for press freedom and for diverse voices in photojournalism around the world. In 2010, police tried unsuccessfully to close Alam’s photo exhibition about the sites of extrajudicial killings by the Bangladesh government’s Rapid Action Battalion. Alam told PDN that friends asked him to take precautions for his safety. “I believe the only space for a journalist is at the edge, and it is only when you are feeling the heat that you can hope to be effective, so yes, there is an element of fear, both for me and for my colleagues, and I have discussed it with my colleagues,” Alam told PDN. “My colleagues have asked me to stop cycling and be driven to places, but I found that too restrictive, but am being careful when I’m moving about.”
More than a week after police jailed Bangladeshi photographer, educator and activist Shahidul in order to silence him, his supporters continue to call on others in the photo community to join the #freeshahidulalam campaign. Alam was dragged from his house on August 5 by plainclothes police, and remains in jail pending a bail hearing scheduled... More ›
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