London/New Delhi/Dhaka, 6 August 2018: The acclaimed international Bangladeshi photographer and cultural archivist Shahidul Alam, who was forcibly taken from his home in Dhaka on Saturday night after speaking out against alleged attacks on school students demanding better road safety, must be freed without delay and unharmed, a group of 17 South Asian editors and advocates for media freedom declared today.
“We call upon the Bangladesh government and the relevant police authorities to release Shahidul Alam immediately and unharmed as this incident fuels greater concern about media freedom and freedom of expression in Bangladesh,” said the statement by the South Asia Media Defenders Network, SAMDEN. “Governments must respect basic rights to free speech, expression and press freedom which lie at the very heart of a democracy.”
Shahidul Alam, SAMDEN said, is known across the world for his riveting documentation of the rights of the vulnerable and poor. It also said that the country’s National Human Rights Commission needed to take up the issue with the authorities.
“Shahidul said before he was detained that he had been earlier assaulted and his camera smashed while taking a video of a crowd were attacking the students,” said the editors. At least five journalists were reportedly injured in the attack, SAMDEN said, urging government authorities to “function with transparency and follow due process”.
Mr. Alam is founder of Drik Picture Library and Pathshala South Asian Media Institute and had been invited to present a major recent exhibition at the London Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) last April.
He was interviewed by the television channel al-Jazeera on the protests and posted his views and experiences on Facebook. The youth protests spiralled over the past week after two students who were killed by a speeding bus. That incident raised concerns about traffic safety in the city, known for its traffic snarls like many other major South Asian metros.
SAMDEN, an informal association of professional media, is anchored in the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI). It added that it supported a statement by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) which urged Bangladesh to ensure that journalists and media professionals in the country were able to work freely and without fear.
- Sanjoy Hazarika, International Director, CHRI and columnist
- Kanak Dixit Founding Editor, Himal Southasian, Nepal
- Beena Sarwar, columnist and film maker, Pakistan & US and Visiting Faculty, Journalism Dept, Emerson College, Boston
- Salil Tripathi, Writer, Chairman of Writers in Prison Committee, PEN International, London
- Rita Payne, former Producer, BBC, and President Emeritus, Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA), London
- MK Venu, Executive Editor, The Wire, India
- Kalpana Sharma Independent journalist and author, Mumbai
- Patricia Mukhim, The Shillong Times, India
- Pradip Phanjubam, Editor, Imphal Free Press, India
- Aunohita Mojumdar, Editor, Himal Southasian, Sri Lanka
- Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty, Deputy Editor, The Wire
- Rana Ayyub, Journalist and Writer, India
- Sujay Gupta, former editor, Heraldo and media entrepreneur, India
- Dileep Chandan, Editor, Asom Bani, India
- Mahendra Ved, President, Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) & Columnist, The New Straits Times, Malaysia
- Shailesh Gandhi, former Chief Information Commissioner. India
- Venkatesh Nayak, Coordinator, Access to Information Programme, CHRI, India