Award-winning photographer, writer and activist Shahidul Alam was taken from his home in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, by plainclothes police officers on the night of 5 August 2018. Shortly before his arrest, Alam had given an interview to the news agency Al Jazeera in which he was critical of the government’s handling of student-led protests – which had been calling for better road safety laws after two teenagers were killed by a speeding bus on 29 July. The government responded to the protests by firing teargas and rubber bullets into the crowds of protestors, injuring hundreds.
On 6 August, Alam was brought before a lower court in Dhaka and accused of ‘making provocative comments’, and ‘giving false information’ to the media under Section 57 of Bangladesh’s draconian Information Communications Technology Act (ICT Act). Section 57 has been widely criticised for restricting freedom of expression and has led to scores of arrests. If convicted, 63-year old Alam faces between seven and 14 years in prison.
Alam publicly claimed he was tortured during his detention. He remained in custody pending a bail hearing scheduled for 11 September, during which his application for bail was denied. Following this denial, Bangladesh’s High Court imposed a one-week deadline on the government to explain why Alam was being held indefinitely and without bail, which the government has not honoured.
Friends and family who have visited him have raised concerns for his deteriorating health. PEN believes that Alam is being held solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and calls on the Bangladeshi authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally.
SPREAD THE WORD
Share on Facebook, Twitter and other social media using the hashtags #FreeShahidulAlam and #ImprisonedWriter
WRITE TO THE AUTHORITIES
Please send appeals:
• Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Shahidul Alam;
• Expressing serious concern for Shahidul Alam’s well-being and urging that he is provided with adequate medical care and treatment and not subjected to ill-treatment while in custody;
• Calling for an independent investigation into Shahidul Alam’s allegations of torture and for those found responsible to be held to account;
• Expressing concerns over the continued application of section 57 of the ICT Act despite repeated commitments of the Bangladeshi government to repeal this provision;
• Reminding the authorities of their obligations to secure the right to freedom of expression including peaceful criticism of political authorities under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bangladesh is a state party.
Old Sangsad Bhaban
Fax: +880-2-8113-244; +880-2-8111-015
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister
Minister of Home Affairs
Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal
Fax: +880 2 913 3498
Tel: +880 2 957 4800
Saluation: Honourable Home Minister
Inspector General of Police
Mohammad Javed Patwary
Fax: +880 2 712 5840
Tel: +880 2 951 4444; +880 2 951 4445
Salutation: Dear Inspector General
Please let us know about any actions you take via the comments box below or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org