Elections are happening in an environment of fear: Shahidul Alam on political accountability in Bangladesh

29 December 2018
SANKA VIDANAGAMA/AFP/Getty Images
SANKA VIDANAGAMA/AFP/Getty Images

On 20 November, the award-winning photographer Shahidul Alam was released on bail after more than 100 days of detention at the Dhaka Central Jail in Bangladesh. A vocal critic of the government in Bangladesh, he was arrested in August after he spoke about student protests in Dhaka in an interview with Al-Jazeera English. During the interview, he said the protests were the result of pent-up anger at corruption and an “unelected government … clinging on by brute force.” He also posted videos on Facebook condemning the government’s heavy-handed response.

Alam was charged under Bangladesh’s Information Communications Technology Act, accused of spreading “propaganda through social media” and “hurting the image of the nation.” His arrest triggered international protest, with human-rights groups, UN officials, and eminent intellectuals such as the scholar Noam Chomsky and the writer Arundhati Roy calling for his release.

Alam is the founder and managing director of Drik Picture Library, and his work is known for holding power to account. His images have depicted human-rights abuses and extra-judicial killings in Bangladesh. In an interview in Dhaka, the independent journalist Aaquib Khan spoke to Alam about the current political and civil-rights situation in the country and the national elections, which are scheduled for 30 December. “Should there be a free and fair election, this government would be threatened,” Alam said.

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    Aaquib Khan is a Mumbai-based media professional. He tweets as @kaqibb.

    Keywords: Bangladesh Shahidul Alam Sheikh Hasina Bangladesh Elections photography
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