Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s ICT Affairs Adviser and son Sajeeb Wazed Joy today called “appropriate” photographer Shahidul Alam’s arrest saying he spread rumours instigating violence during the last month’s student protests demanding road safety.
“Peaceful protests quickly turned violent. Bangladeshi photojournalist Shahidul Alam was among those responsible for this terrible turn,” Joy wrote in a signed article in the US-based RealClearPolitics (RCP) media outlet.
He added Alam was arrested for “inciting violence, which, because of his celebrity and despite the facts, led to an international outcry on his behalf”.
Joy said “overwhelmed by grief” the students took to the street after a bus struck and killed two high schoolers in Dhaka to demand improved road safety while the government “heard the students and responded with a resounding 'yes'”.
He said the government promised to bolster enforcement of traffic laws and increase the penalty for reckless driving and “the protests, in short, succeeded”.
But leaders of the country’s main opposition party saw a chance to exploit the moment for political gain. Members of the Bangladeshi National Party (BNP) infiltrated student groups, sometimes donning student uniforms, and stirred things up,” Joy wrote but observe, however, that BNP’s instigation “didn’t go that far”.
“(But) Mr. Alam chose to play along with the BNP and was appropriately arrested. He used both social and traditional media outlets to spread false claims about students’ deaths” the article read.
It added: He (Alam) used both social and traditional media outlets to spread false claims about students’ deaths. That, in turn, initiated violence and an attack on the governing party’s headquarters.”
The article noted that numerous people were injured “because of his false and provocative assertions (while) one member of the governing Awami League was permanently blinded in the attack”.
“Police arrested Mr. Alam not because he held a contrary view but because his latest pronouncements caused real harm. Mr. Alam’s words helped transformed a peaceful protest into lawless violence,” Joy wrote.
He added: “Hijacking a protest by young students and endangering their lives, along with many other Bangladeshis, is not politics, it’s terrorism”.
The premier’s adviser said for more than a decade, Alam freely voiced his political dissent while at times, he “expressed support for Bangladesh’s government; at other times, he has been a harsh critic”.
“But in every case, the government has protected his right to free speech, a right that all Bangladeshis have,” he wrote.
The article said government was led by interest of public safety in arresting Alam and “indeed, the government’s actions were necessary”.
“Mr. Alam isn’t a victim. His actions harmed a lot of people,” read the article in the RealClearPolitics (RCP), described as a global political news and polling data aggregator.
The article said in the US “it is illegal to yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater when there is no fire” and “Alam did the equivalent in Bangladesh and was correctly charged with a crime”.
“This is a national election year in Bangladesh. So, no one should be surprised that the opposition wants to divert attention from the government’s accomplishments, including lifting 30 million people out of poverty and doubling the country’s per capita income,” Joy wrote.
He said it was not surprising that the BNP again resorted to violence but both BNP and Alam’s actions were unacceptable.
“No one – not a political party, a celebrity photographer, or anyone else – can be permitted to harm other people,” he said.