South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), a regional network of human rights defenders, condemns the detention and torture of Dr. Shahidul Alam, a Bangladeshi photojournalist, commentator, and founder of the multimedia organization Drik and Pathshala Media Institute.
On 5 August, a group of plainclothes officers claiming to be from the detective branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police raided Alam’s apartment in Dhanmondi and forcibly dragged him to a microbus where they blindfolded and handcuffed him. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that the abductors allegedly disabled the CCTV cameras in Alam’s apartment building before detaining him. His wife went to file an FIR regarding the abduction but Dhanmondi Police Station refused to record it.
Hours before his abduction, Alam was covering student protests in Dhaka where at least 5 journalists and over 100 protesters were attacked. Alam‘s camera was vandalised. Alam had uploaded video footage of these protests to Facebook and hours before the raid on his home, had given an interview to Al Jazeera on the situation.
Alam appeared barefoot in court and stated that he had been tortured, beaten in the face, and threatened. He has been placed in remand for 7 days for interrogation, without any medical examination, in violation of Bangladesh’s constitution and laws. He has been charged under section 57 of the draconian Information Communications Technology Act, which has systematically been used to suppress freedom of speech and arrest journalists without warrant.
SAHR condemns this flagrant violation of the human rights of media personnel and peaceful protesters by both state and non-state actors. We urge the Government of Bangladesh to cease arbitrary detention and torture, as well as attacks on peaceful protestors, or those expressing their opinions.
We demand that the Government of Bangladesh assure Alam’s safety, allow a medical examination, and facilitate his quick release. We also demand a transparent and impartial inquiry into attacks on journalists and protestors and an investigation into the circumstances of Alam’s detention and torture.
On behalf of the members of South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR):