Three United Nations human rights experts on Monday urged Bangladesh authorities to immediately release photographer Shahidul Alam, arrested and allegedly tortured after reporting abuses against student protesters demanding road safety.
UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst, UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye, UN chair-rapporteur of the working group on arbitrary detention Seong-Phil Hong made the demand in a statement issued from Geneva.
Shahidul Alam was arrested at his Dhanmondi house in Dhaka on August 5, few hours after a international news outlet aired his interview on the student protests for road safety. He was produced before a court on August 6, when he said that he was tortured. He was interrogated in police custody on charges of spreading propaganda and false information against the government, said the statement.
‘The arrest and alleged ill-treatment of [Shahidul] Alam is extremely worrying and takes place in a general context of a crackdown against young students and others calling for better public governance, reforms and justice in Bangladesh, including media workers and other civil society,’ the statement read.
‘We urge the relevant authorities to immediately release Alam and to take effective measures to have all allegations of torture investigated promptly, effectively and impartially,’ it said, adding, ‘we also urge them to ensure a safe and enabling environment for media workers.’
A metropolitan magistrate’s court in Dhaka on Sunday sent Shahidul Alam to jail.
His arrest has drawn wide condemnation from local and international rights groups, professionals and intellectuals, including American writer and philosopher Noam Chomsky, Indian writer Arundhati Roy, Canadian author Naomi Klein and Indian intellectual Vijay Prashad and several hundred nationally and internationally acclaimed citizens and rights activists.
Shahidul is a recipient of multiple awards, including Shilpakala Padak (2014); the Lucie Foundation announced in 2018 that he would be receiving the distinguished Humanitarian Award 2018.
Shahidul is a photographer, academic, human rights activist, and founder of Drik Picture Library and Pathshala South Asian Media Institute which has trained hundreds of photographers.
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