Photographer arrested over Bangladesh student protests

Lester Mason
August 7, 2018

A global human rights group on Tuesday accused Bangladesh's government of using abusive measures in handling student-led protests calling for safer roads. Authorities should order an immediate investigation into reports that renowned photographer and activist, Shahidul Alam, was beaten while in custody.

The tens of thousands of teenage school pupils and university students who have paralysed the capital Dhaka and elsewhere for the past nine days - and torched eight buses - are pressing for better road safety after a speeding bus killed two teenagers on July 29.

Shahidul Alam, the photographer who was detained by the Detective Branch of the Bangladesh police, has not thus far been charged with any offence. Some perpetrators were identified when the attacks were caught on camera.

"Yet again, Bangladesh authorities seem determined to take abusive shortcuts to problems, and then denounce those who criticize", Adams said. The students have a right to peaceful assembly and physical security.

The student demonstrators continued to clash with police Sunday, the eighth day of the protests, in their quest for better traffic laws and protections for pedestrians.

Amnesty International called for Alam's immediate release, with Deputy South Asia Director Omar Waraich saying in a statement that the arrest "marks a risky escalation of a crackdown by the government". "They said, 'You must leave". The attackers, all wearing helmets to hide their identity, started beating the students. They were taking pictures and videos to be able to identify the protesters.

Similar attacks were reported in other areas of Dhaka. At least five journalists were attacked at the student protests, including a photographer for The Associated Press who was briefly hospitalized, according to the AP. While some attackers wore helmets, the journalists identified some of their attackers to be Awami League youth members.

Thousands of students join in a protest over recent traffic accidents that killed a boy and a girl, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Aug. 5, 2018. There are fears that he could be charged under Section 57 of Bangladesh's draconian Information Communication Technology Act, which is inconsistent with global legal standards for the protection of the right to freedom of expression.

Authorities have also restricted access to telecommunications networks across the country since August 4, saying that these shutdowns are needed to prevent violence fueled by rumors circulated on social media or mobile messaging applications.

Alam had posted photos and a live video of the protests on his Facebook page a few hours before he was detained.

The group also demanded punishment for the attackers, instead of the activists.

Under global human rights law and standards, law enforcement officials must as far as possible apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms. Hasina said the students' demands were logical and she would work to meet them in phases.

With Bangladesh heading to elections this year, Waraich warned, "t is crucial that the government adheres to its worldwide obligations, including the protection of the rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and security of persons".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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