Massive road safety protests in Bangladesh are making headlines around the world due to the violent crackdown being conducted by the government. In addition to students being attacked, photographers are also finding themselves in the crosshairs: some are being beaten in the streets, and one prominent photojournalist was abducted hours after giving a news interview.
On July 29th, massive public protests broke out in Bangladesh after two college students in the capital city of Dhaka were killed by an unlicensed bus driver. As students took to the streets to demand tougher traffic laws and safer roads, authorities and groups began cracking down on the demonstrations by attacking both protesters and journalists.
In addition to law enforcement, it’s reported that much of the violence is being carried out by members of the students’ political group Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL).
Photos and videos have emerged showing photojournalists covering the protests being physically attacked by unidentified men wielding metal rods, sticks, and even machetes. Cameras are also being taken from the photographers and destroyed.
“A group of 5-6 photojournalists were standing in front of Dhaka City College with the police, covering the ongoing student protests, when the attackers, allegedly Bangladesh Chhatra League activists, attacked them, said photojournalist Al Emrun Garjon,” Dhaka Tribune reports. “They dragged the photojournalists from there and beat them badly.”
He is just a freelance photographer. Look at what the goons of Bangladesh Chatra League did to him. And we are called an independent country. Are we actually? I'm calling for attention from all over the world to look at the injustice. #Dhaka #WeWantJustice #CNN #Obama #AJEnglish pic.twitter.com/3pOp0GF1jg
— Nahid Khan (@NahidKhan1000) August 5, 2018
— hamza (@hamza55501783) August 5, 2018
Among those beaten was AP photographer AM Ahad.
“Ahad came under attack in the city’s Jigatala area and others were injured in the attack in Science Laboratory area in the afternoon,” UNB reports. “Ahad was beaten mercilessly and his mobile phone and camera were broken while discharging his professional duty. Doctors at a nearby hospital said the photographer had serious injuries to his head that need stitches.”
Renowned Bangladeshi photojournalist Shahidul Alam gave an interview with Al Jazeera about the protests. Hours after his comments were broadcast yesterday, at least 40 people arrived at the 63-year-old man’s house at 10:30 pm, grabbed him, and forcefully pushed the screaming photographer into a car.
Today, Bangladesh police confirmed Alam’s arrest and stated that he had been taken into custody for his “false” comments.
Aljazeera Photographer Sir Shahidul Alam has been abducted by some white dressed people around 10:30pm from his residence after his live interview in Aljazeera about the current situation in Bangladesh#ShahidulAlam#Aljazeera#WeWantJustice #saveBangladesh#WeWantSafeR pic.twitter.com/MUXI3e4dwp
— samia hasan@ (@samiahasan16) August 6, 2018
#BREAKING A Dhaka court has placed #Bangladesh's top photographer @Shahidul Alam on a 7-day remand in a case filed against him by police for ''spreading propaganda against the government & spreading false information about the ongoing student protest on Facebook.'' #FreeShahidul pic.twitter.com/V9FmMtUyls
— Arafatul Islam (@arafatul) August 6, 2018
“He has been brought to our office early this morning [Monday],” an officer tells Al Jazeera. “We are interrogating him for giving false information to different media and for provocative comments. And he could not give proper answers. He admitted that these are his personal opinion.”
Alam has had his photos widely published internationally over his career, and he had been covering the protests in recent days as well as commenting on them.
— Al Jazeera News (@AJENews) August 6, 2018
Photographer and journalism groups are now demanding Alam’s release.
“Bangladesh authorities must immediately release Shahidul Alam without charge,” says CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists) coordinator Steven Butler. “Authorities should also ensure that Alam and all journalists covering unrest in Dhaka are able to work without fear of attack or arrest.”
We call for the immediate and unconditional release of photographer Dr @shahidul Alam who was forcibly abducted from his house on 5 Aug 2018 for interrogation over his Facebook posts on the ongoing student protests in #Dhaka: https://t.co/YCl15BprgP #FreeShahidulAlam
— World Press Photo (@WorldPressPhoto) August 6, 2018
“Shahidul Alam must be immediately and unconditionally released,” says Amnesty International director Omar Waraich. “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 protesters.”
Image credits: Protest photo by Asivechowdhury and licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0