Free Shahidul Alam
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Amnesty International and the signed petitioners request Bangladeshi authorities immediately release internationally renowned social activism photo journalist Shahidul Alam, who was detained by secret police in Dhaka on 5 August 2018 after giving an interview to Al-Jazeera on the current wave of student protests in Dhaka. Shahidul is currently in police remand for 7 days, which allegedly included police torture on first evening.
To give an idea of the suppression of free speech inside Bangladesh right now, access to this petition inside Bangladesh was blocked by authorities within 30 mins of its launch. Likewise, anybody can be picked up for anything, because what constitutes as an offence under section 57 is a blurry zone: for example, random people are being arrested for writing support for Shahidul on Facebook.
below paragraphs taken from: www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/08/bangladesh-release-photographer-end-violent-crackdown/
At least 115 students were injured over the weekend as the police resorted to grossly excessive force, including firing rubber bullets and tear gas at thousands of overwhelmingly peaceful student protestors. The students also came under attack from pro-government counter-demonstrators.
“Shahidul Alam must be immediately and unconditionally released. There is no justification whatsoever for detaining anyone for solely peacefully expressing their views. His arrest marks a dangerous escalation of a crackdown by the government that has seen the police and vigilantes unleash violence against student protestors,” said Omar Waraich, Amnesty International’s Deputy South Asia Director.
“The Bangladeshi government must end the crackdown on the student protestors and people speaking out against it. The students have a right to peaceful assembly and physical security. These rights should be respected and protected, and there should be an immediate and effective investigation into the use of force by police, the violent actions of pro-government vigilantes who also attacked the students, and why the police did nothing to stop them.”
Thousands of Bangladeshi students have taken to the streets of Dhaka to demand safer roads after two teenagers were killed and 13 others injured while waiting at a bus stop outside a college when a speeding bus hit them.
Shahidul Alam, the photographer who was detained by the Detective Branch of the Bangladesh police, has not thus far been charged with any offence. There are fears that he could be charged under Section 57 of Bangladesh’s draconian Information Communication Technology Act, which is inconsistent with international legal standards for the protection of the right to freedom of expression.
Under international human rights law and standards, law enforcement officials must as far as possible apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms. They can only resort to the use of force and firearms when other means have proved ineffective, and must then still exercise restraint.
“As Bangladesh heads towards elections later this year, it is crucial that the government adheres to its international obligations, including the protection of the rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and security of persons” said Omar Waraich.
References and background media information
- AlJazeera interview with Shahidul Alam that caused arrest:
- AlJazeera: Context of student protest
- Guardian editorial: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/08/the-guardian-view-on-shahidul-alam-bangladesh-should-let-him-go
- New York Times feature article
- Leading Bangladeshi media
Shahidul has been charged under Section 57 of Bangladesh’s Information and Communication Technology Act, which could result in a sentence of up to 14 years in prison. Again, this is just for giving an interview to Al Jazeera and speaking his mind.
Please read the Amnesty International report attached, and write immediately in English or Bangla or in your own language urging the authorities to:
Immediately and unconditionally release Shahidul Alam, who is a prisoner of conscience, and drop all charges as he has been detained solely for peacefully exercising his human right to freedom of expression;
Ensure that activists, human rights defenders, journalists, academics and members of the political opposition and other members of the public are able to peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 18 SEPTEMBER 2018 TO:
Minister of Home Affairs
Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal
Salutation: Honourable Home Minister
Inspector General of Police
Mohammad Javed Patwary
Salutation: Dear Inspector General
Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.
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