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Bangladesh photographer denied bail for fourth time

November 1, 2018

Award-winning photographer-activist Shahidul Alam, who has been held by Bangladeshi authorities for three months in an internationally watched freedom of speech case, has been denied bail for the fourth time, his lawyer said Thursday.

The 63-year-old Alam was arrested on August 5 for making “false” and “provocative” statements on Al Jazeera television and Facebook during student protests. He says he has been beaten while in custody.

A high court in Dhaka took Alam’s latest bail petition request off its hearing list without giving a decision or a reason, his lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua told AFP, slamming the action as unjustified.

Alam’s arrest has triggered international protests, with rights groups, UN rights experts, Nobel laureates and hundreds of academics calling for his release.

After three previous bail attempts failed, lawyers launched the latest petition two weeks ago.

“We are very unhappy. There is no justification for detaining a person without trial for three months,” Barua said.

He said the detention was “a clear violation” of Alam’s fundamental rights under Bangladesh’s constitution.

Alam’s arrest followed nine straight days of protests by students who blocked Dhaka streets to show their fury at road safety conditions after two teenagers were killed by a speeding bus.

Alam told Al Jazeera the protests were the result of pent-up anger at corruption and an “unelected government… clinging on by brute force.”

The photographer is being investigated under Bangladesh’s internet laws which critics say are used to stifle dissent and harass journalists.

Alam, whose work has appeared widely in international media and who founded the renowned Pathshala South Asian Media Institute — faces a maximum 14 years in jail if convicted. Others were also detained on similar charges during the protests.

The photographer told reporters outside court in August that he had been beaten in police custody so that his tunic needed washing to get the blood out.

The Human Rights Watch group has denounced Bangladesh authorities for targeting activists and journalists instead of prosecuting those who attacked students during the protests.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, used her first statement to raise the attacks and arrests of journalists in Bangladesh.

In recent weeks, the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been accused of stifling dissent further by ratifying a controversial new digital security law.

A prominent critic of the government was arrested for defamation last month days after he helped form an opposition coalition.


Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.