Five internationally celebrated intellectuals including American writer and philosopher Noam Chomsky and Indian writer Arundhati Roy once again urged the Bangladesh government to immediately release acclaimed photographer Shahidul Alam and drop all the cases against him.
In a joint statement, Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, American playwright and activist Eve Ensler, Canadian author Naomi Klein and Indian intellectual and historian Vijay Prashad said that people from around the world had written in support of this important photographer, yet the Bangladesh government was impassive, according to a Drik Picture Library Limited release issued on Saturday.
‘This is our second statement. We are heartsick with worry for this talented photographer,’ read the statement.
Writer, author and Pen Internationals Writers in Prison Committee chair Salil Tripathi published the statement, issued on September 5, in his tweet on Friday.
Shahidul Alam, 63, was detained by plainclothes police from his home after he gave an interview to Al Jazeera about student protests which he documented and discussed in Facebook Live on August 5.
A Dhaka metropolitan magistrate’s court on August 12 sent Shahidul to prison after he was produced before the court following interrogation in police custody for seven days.
‘Free Shahidul Alam,’ read that statement adding, ‘we urge the government of Bangladesh to urgently release Shahidul Alam and drop all the cases against him.’
‘He has been charged under Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act for his role in covering the protests by young people in Dhaka for road safety. Others have received bail, but he has not - his bail hearings repeatedly cancelled,’ read the statement.
‘The State appears to be framing new malicious charges against him, it said.
‘In 1971, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the leader of Bangladesh’s freedom movement and father of the current prime minister, said, “I have given you independence, now go and preserve it.” We urge prime minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed to honour her father’s words. To preserve independence means to preserve the freedom of the press,’ read the statement.
Shahidul’s arrest drew wide condemnation from local and international rights groups, professionals and intellectuals, including Nobel laureates Amartya Sen, archbishop Desmond Tutu, Tawakkol Karman, Mairead Maguire, Betty Williams, Oscar Arias, Richard J Roberts, Jose Ramos-Horta, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Joseph Stiglitz and Muhammad Yunus.
Globally renowned intellectuals and activists including three times prime minister of Norway Gro Harlem Brundtland, English business magnate, author and philanthropist Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson, co-founder of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia Jimmy Wales, Indian writer activist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Hollywood actress and producer Sharon Stone and several hundred nationally and internationally acclaimed citizens and rights activists alongside three UN human right experts also joined the Nobel laureates.
Shahidul is a recipient of multiple awards, including Shilpakala Padak (2014). The Lucie Foundation announced this year that he would be receiving the distinguished Humanitarian Award 2018.
Shahidul is also a human rights activist and the founder of Drik Picture Library Limited and Pathshala South Asian Media Institute which has trained hundreds of photographers.
The Chobi Mela photo festival, which he started in 1999, brings photographers from around the world to Dhaka.