Police in Bangladesh have charged a prize-winning photographer for “provocative comments” made in an al-Jazeera interview about protests that have convulsed the country for more than a week.
More than 100 people were injured at the weekend during a demonstration over road safety as police fired teargas and rubber bullets and crowds of people attacked protesters, photographers and journalists.
At least 20 plainclothes officers picked up Shahidul Alam, 63, at his home in the capital, Dhaka, at about 10pm on Sunday, hours after his comments were broadcast by the Qatar-based TV station @aljazeeraenglish.
Police charged Alam on Monday under section 57 of Bangladesh’s Information Communications Technology Act, a broad law against electronic communication that “tends to deprave or corrupt” or prejudices the image of the state. He was placed on seven-day remand.
Scores of journalists and citizens have been arrested without warrant, prosecuted and jailed under the law, which human rights groups say is draconian and the government admits has been misused.
Alam is the founder and managing director of the Drik gallery and the creator of the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute in Dhaka, which has trained hundreds of photographers.
The student protests, now in their tenth day, began after a speeding bus killed two teenagers on 29 July, with demonstrators calling for government to address Bangladesh’s chaotic roads.
On Saturday, the Dhaka protests turned violent when more than 100 people were hurt as police fired rubber bullets at demonstrators.
The Bangladeshi government must end the crackdown on the student protestors and release Shahidul Alam immediately.
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