Shahidul Alam, Iconic Photographer from Bangladesh, Detained Over “Provocative Comments”


Shahidul Alam/ Facebook

On 5 August, at around 10pm, at least 30 plain clothes officers descended on the home of Shahidul Alam in Dhaka to forcefully detain him. A photographer, writer, social activist and fierce critic of the government, Alam was sped away by the men, hours after he posted a video to Facebook about the student protests taking place in Bangladesh. He had also voiced his thoughts regarding the government’s poor response on Al Jazeera about the issue.

He was officially placed under arrest the next day. Moshiur Rahman, a police official, told AFP that he was being interrogated for “provocative comments” and for “giving false information to different media.” He also added that “[Alam] could not give proper answers. He admitted that these were his personal opinions.” Since the incident, he has been placed on a seven-day remand, in a case filed against him under the Information and Communication Technology Act.  The Daily Star, a Bangladeshi newspaper, reported that the act has been used recently in over 20 cases involving journalists.

According to AFP, as he was being taken for his remand hearing, Alam claimed that he had been beaten in custody. “[They] washed my blood-stained punjabi and then made me wear it again.”

Shahidul Alam is a leading figure in photography, and the founder of Patshala South Asian Media Academy, in Dhaka. Besides this, he is the Director of the photo festival, Chobi Mela, and the founder and managing director of Drik Picture Library. For years, he has spoken up against the corruption of the Bangladeshi government, its police force, and the involvement of the country’s army in its politics.

In a 2013 interview with Better Photography, Alam said, “I see my role more as a catalyst in various spaces, as opposed to being someone who makes the change himself. What I am looking for is being able to strategically intervene in places where I can perhaps change the course—be it of the photographic mindset, legal reforms, structural changes within the system and certainly, political changes.”

Earlier, during the protests, AP photojournalist AM Ahad was surrounded and attacked by unidentified assailants when he, along with his colleagues refused to stop covering the events. He sustained severe injuries, and his camera was snatched away and destroyed.  

Tags: Bangladesh, Dhaka, Shahidul Alam, Chobi Mela, AFP, al jazeera, Drik Picture Library, Patshala South Asian Media Academy