Over 250 Photographers, Artists, Journalists and Activists Demand Immediate Release of Dr. Shahidul Alam

Activist and photographer Shahidul Alam surrounded by policemen for a court appearance in Dhaka on Aug. 6, 2018/ Image Courtesy:TIME
Over 250 photographers, Artists, Journalists and activists including:

Ram Rahman, Vivan Sundaram, Parthiv Shah, Pushpamala N., Raghu Rai, Devika Daulet-Singh, Pablo Bartholomew, Prashant Panjiar, Dinesh Khanna, Sunil Gupta, Jitish Kalat, Krishen Khanna, Ravi Aggarwal and Gauri Gill, have issued a statement demanding Bangladesh photographer Shahidul Alam’s immediate release. The statement with is as follows:

In a shocking development, late night on 5 August 2018, Dr. Shahidul Alam, internationally renowned photographer, pedagogue, activist, and founder of Drik and Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, was forcibly abducted from his house in Dhanmondi, Dhaka in Bangladesh. According to eyewitnesses, around 30 to 35 plainclothes men, claiming to be from the Detective Branch (DB) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, forcibly entered Dr. Alam’s home, pushed him into a waiting car and sped away. They taped up the CCTV camera and took away the camera footage. The security guards were manhandled and locked up.

Additional Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (Detective Branch), Abdul Baten, told UNB (United News of Bangladesh) that Dr. Shahidul Alam has been detained for interrogation over his Facebook posts on the ongoing student protests in Bangladesh. Later news reports confirm that Dr. Alam has been arrested under the draconian ICT Act (Information and Communication Technology Act), routinely used to suppress freedom of speech, and to harass writers, activists and journalists for their comments on social media. When Dr. Alam was produced before a Dhaka court on Monday, 6 August, he had to be supported as he could not walk on his own. He had been made to wash his own bloodied clothes to wear again. The Dhaka police were granted a 7-day remand after producing him before the court.

There have been further developments. On Tuesday, 7 August, the court ordered that Dr. Alam be taken to a government hospital for a medical check-up in response to a petition filed by his lawyers; however, the written orders were not produced in time and so he spent another night in police custody. He was finally taken to hospital at 9.30 am today, 8 August, but it appears that once the medical checkup takes place he will be back in police custody. The next hearing at the court is on Thursday, 9 August 2018, when the State lawyers will attempt to oppose the High Court order and argue against it.

The detention and murderous attack on Dr. Shahidul Alam is symptomatic. Writers, journalists and social media activists in Bangladesh have over the last several years suffered similar repression. Dr. Alam is determined to hold on to the ideal of social justice and to engage in action that strengthens democratic and egalitarian values. He has disseminated these ideas through his critical writings, a sustained pedagogical programme around photography and numerous curatorial projects that engage the public.  He is admired and respected all across the world and especially in South Asia for his exemplary work as a photographer-activist and for his courageous stand on the fraught relationship between the State and the people.cultural

Consider how Dr Alam’s position resonates with that in India; how it  adds to the urgencies needing to be addressed by the citizenry here.

We condemn, in the strongest possible way, the arrest, and dishonour done to Dr. Shahidul Alam. The message is simple. Dr. Alam exercised his right as a citizen. No charges must be bought under section 57 of the draconian ICT Act. brutality

We demand his immediate and unconditional release.