DHAKA: Bangladesh is under international scanner for the arrest of award-winning photographer and social activist Shahidul Alam for critical remarks about the Awami League government over the recent student protests. Mr Alam, 63, arrested under law often called draconian, has claimed that he was tortured in police custody. His case will be heard by a court tomorrow. The court earlier ordered that he be given medical treatment and asked for a report.
The Paris based Reporters Without Borders has condemned Mr Alam’s arrest and recent attacks on 23 other journalists in Dhaka. Photojournalists across India too have voiced their protest. Photojournalist Raghu Rai has written an open letter to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, urging her to release Shahidul Alam.
Mr Alam, who was arrested last Monday, after he gave an interview to a foreign television channel, has been accused of spreading false information against the government.
In the interview to Al Jazeera, Mr Alam said the student unrest was not only against the fatal accident of 29 July, but was an outburst against what he called an “unelected government ruling by brute force”, and the “gagging of the media and much worse”.
Over the last week, Mr Alam – whose photos have been used by several foreign media houses, including the New York Times – was covering the student protests that started after two students were mowed down on the chaotic roads in Dhaka.
The students’ demand for safer roads took a violent turn after the police tried to control the protesters with batons and rubber bullets. Around 100 people were injured. A day later, the police fired tear gas at a large crowd that was marching toward an office of the ruling Awami League party, reported news agency AFP.
The photographer – who was prevented from filming a tense moment on the streets of Dhaka last Saturday – came under the scanner of the authorities after a series of social media posts that were critical of the government. Some of the posts referred to men in helmets wielding machetes alleged linked to the ruling party.
Ms Hasina has said her political rivals are using the protests to stir up anti-government sentiments ahead of the general election that will be held later this year. The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party has denied involvement in the protests.