The award-winning photographer Shahidul Alam has been arrested by Bangladeshi police following ‘provocative comments’ made to the media regarding ongoing student protests about road safety in the country, Al Jazeera reports. The 63-year-old was arrested by at least 20 uniformed and plain-clothes officers at his home on Sunday and is being held in police custody for seven days.
In a statement, police official Moshuir Rahman has said: ‘He has been brought to our office early this morning [Monday]. We are interrogating him for giving false information to different media and for provocative comments… he could not give proper answers. He admitted that these are his personal opinion.’ The police have also notified Alam’s lawyers and friends that he is likely to be charged under the International Communication and Technology Act (ICT) for ‘spreading propaganda against the government’.
Shireen Huq, a friend of Alam’s has said, ‘It is an unclear situation as no one has been able to meet him but the police … told us that a case is being filed against him and he will be taken to the court today.’
Al Jazeera’s Tanvir Chowdhury, who has been following Alam’s arrest, as well as the student protests from Dhaka, reported that ‘he was visibly limping, two people had to hold him. We don't know why is this the case but this is what the video [posted on social media] showed’.
Rights groups including Amnesty International have demanded Alam’s immediate release, stating: ‘His arrest marks a dangerous escalation of a crackdown by the government that has seen the police and vigilantes unleash violence against student protesters’.
After two teenagers were killed by a speeding bus, student protesters began to demonstrate, appealing to the government to make Bangladesh’s roads more safe.
Alam had told Al Jazeera that the demonstrators were driven by ‘larger’ factors than road safety, attempting to bring to light ‘the looting of the banks, the extrajudicial killings, disappearings, bribery and corruption’. The protests have been met with tear gas, and students are reportedly under siege in campus buildings.
On Sunday Alam, who had taken photographs of the student demonstrations and broadcast the events on Facebook Live, had told Al Jazeera: ‘Today the police specifically asked for help from armed goons to combat unarmed students demanding safe roads…The government has miscalculated. It thought that fear and repression would be enough but you cannot tame an entire nation in this manner.’
6 August 2018