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24 civil society groups call for Shahidul's early release

By bdnews24.com
12th-Aug-2018       
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Nineteen civil society groups have released a joint statement calling for the immediate release of Bangladeshi photojournalist Shahidul Alam and for the charges against him to be dropped.
Alam, the founder of Drik Gallery and Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, was detained from his home on Aug 5 in an ICT Act case.
It was alleged that Alam was attempting to spread 'fear and panic' on the internet using 'fantastical and provocative lies' during the students' road safety movement.
The joint statement, signed by organisations such as the Ain o Salish Kendra and Transparency International, Bangladesh, says Alam has been denied access to his lawyers, was reportedly beaten and is in poor health.
"We, the undersigned civil society organisations, call for Shahidul Alam's immediate and unconditional release, that all allegations against him be dropped, and that he receive proper medical care," the statement said.
The 63-year-old was taken to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University or BSMMU for tests on Aug 8 and returned to Detective Bureau custody afterwards.
Alam was detained after he streamed videos on Facebook Live discussing the clashes in Dhaka's Jigatala area amid student protests for road safety. He also criticised the government during an interview with Al Jazeera.
The case against Alam was made under the controversial Section 57 of the ICT Act.
"However, journalists and rights activists have consistently raised concerns that the law is incompatible with international human rights standards, including Bangladesh's international obligations under Article 19 of the ICCPR, due to its broad powers to restrict online expression," the statement said.
"It has been widely applied against journalists and ordinary citizens who have been arrested, prosecuted and jailed solely for their expression."
The allegations against Alam represent a 'blatant violation of his right to freedom of expression', it continued.
"We remain deeply concerned by the use of laws such as the ICT Act in Bangladesh to legally harass journalists and media workers and violate the right to freedom of expression, and call for its urgent repeal," the statement said.
The joint statement was signed by ARTICLE 19, the Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF), Bandhu Social Welfare Society (BSWF), the Bangladesh Adivasi Forum, the Bangladesh Dalit and Excluded Rights Movements (BDERM), the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council (BHBCUC), the Bangladesh Mahila Parishad (BMP), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the German section of Amnesty International, the Sramik Nirapotta Forum (SNF), Boys of Bangladesh (BOB), Friends Association for Integrated Revolution (FAIR), International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), Index on Censorship, Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF), National Alliance of Disabled Peoples Organizations, Nijera Kori, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Steps Towards Development, Transparency International, Bangladesh (TIB), Nagorik Uddyog, Open Society Foundations Programme on Independent Journalism and Jagriti Prokashoni.

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