The detention of eminent photographer Shahidul Alam was a severe blow to freedom of expression and press freedom in Bangladesh, Foreign Correspondents' Club (FCC) of Hong Kong said yesterday.
Deploring the actions of the Bangladesh authorities, the FCC appealed for Shahidul's immediate release and called on the authorities to ensure that all media are able to do their jobs without fear for their safety.
“His [Shahidul] arrest has led to an outpouring of support from his friends and colleagues across the world which has highlighted his important work, his social activism and his empathy for others,” the FCC said in a statement.
Several journalists, mostly photojournalists, came under attack while covering the recent student protests demanding safe road in Dhaka.
Shahidul was picked up on August 5, hours after he gave an interview supporting the protests.
The next day, he was placed on seven-day remand by a Dhaka court in a case filed under the controversial section 57 of the ICT Act. He was allegedly tortured in police custody.
The court denied him bail and gave the police seven-day remand of the accused. He was sent to jail on August 12.
In a report on Shahidul, the British Journal of Photography, UK said section 57 of the ICT Act carries a minimum sentence of seven years and a maximum of 14 years, which is contrary to the international legal standards for the protection of the right to freedom of expression.
The law has been employed against scores of citizens, and more than 20 journalists in recent years, it said.
The International Center of Photography (ICP), New York joined many people and organisations who have been supporting Shahidul, asking for his speedy and honourable release.
“Shahidul Alam's work should be a cause for celebration, not punishment,” said Fred Ritchin, dean emeritus/scholar-in-residence of ICP.
BBC News also published an article on August 15, describing Shahidul's diversified works all over the globe.
The article said, “For decades he has used his camera to chronicle events in Bangladesh and his pictures have been published widely in leading newspapers and magazines.”
As the founder of the Drik picture agency and a respected photography school, Shahidul is also credited with nurturing a generation of Bangladeshi photographers, it added.