The Jailing of Bangladeshi Photographer Shahidul Alam Is a Travesty for Free Speech – 孟加拉国摄影师沙伊杜尔(阿拉姆)的监禁是对言论自由的嘲弄。

Opinion - 14 Aug 2018

The Jailing of Bangladeshi Photographer Shahidul Alam Is a Travesty for Free Speech

The arrest of the photojournalist for ‘provocative comments’ over Dhaka protests makes clear that personal liberty across the region is a sham

By Skye Arundhati Thomas

Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh, has the second largest population of active Facebook users of any city in the world. Bangladesh is also a country in which social media’s popularity goes together with increasing political repression. For instance, in April 2017, Monirul Islam, a rubber plantation worker from Srimongol, South Bangladesh, was arrested for ‘defaming the country’s prime minister’ by liking and sharing a Facebook post that included a caricature of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. A case was filed condemning Islam under Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act (ICT), describing his actions as a ‘betrayal to the country’. Islam was denied bail, and detained for over three months before the High Court issued papers for his release (the author of the original Facebook post went into hiding for fear of his own arrest).

Shahidul Alam, A student screams out to friends from a police van at Jagannath Hall, Dhaka University, after a police raid, 31 January 1996, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Courtesy: Shahidul Alam/Drik

The Jailing of Bangladeshi Photographer Shahidul Alam Is a Travesty for Free Speech - 孟加拉国摄影师沙伊杜尔(阿拉姆)的监禁是对言论自由的嘲弄。

Shahidul Alam, A student screams out to friends from a police van at Jagannath Hall, Dhaka University, after a police raid, 31 January 1996, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Courtesy: Shahidul Alam/Drik

The ICT is an intentionally ambiguous piece of legislation that provides ample cause for arbitrary arrests, in which offences include using digital media to ‘cause damage to the state’ or ‘create anarchy’. Officers do not need to produce warrants for arrests; courts are given permission to restrict bail (which they almost always do); and the minimum prison term is seven years (the maximum, 14). As listed in a recent Human Rights Watch report, the police have filed 1,271 charges under the act since 2013. In the first three months of 2018 alone, the number was at 282.

With increasing ferocity, the Bangladeshi state has been actively detaining and fining civilians for hitting ‘like’ and ‘share’ buttons on Facebook. On 5 August 2018, seven days into a student-led protest over Dhaka’s dismal road safety infrastructure (following the deaths of two children, killed by a speeding bus in July), photojournalist, teacher and social activist Shahidul Alam became the latest victim of the ICT act. Alam was abducted from his home by around 30 plain clothes officers of the Detective Branch, a ‘specialized’ unit of the Bangladeshi police.

Shahidul Alam, Woman cooking on rooftop, Jinjira, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 1988. Courtesy: Shahidul Alam/Drik

The Jailing of Bangladeshi Photographer Shahidul Alam Is a Travesty for Free Speech - 孟加拉国摄影师沙伊杜尔(阿拉姆)的监禁是对言论自由的嘲弄。

Shahidul Alam, Woman cooking on rooftop, Jinjira, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 1988. Courtesy: Shahidul Alam/Drik

The arrest came hours after Alam had given an interview to Al Jazeera and uploaded videos to Facebook in which he stated his solidarity with the protesting students, and condemned government corruption. Alam referred to the police’s violent tactics: striking student protesters with rubber pellet guns and tear gas shells, and even wooden batons. And he decried ‘the looting of banks, the gagging of the media, the extra-judicial killings […] a never-ending list.’ Alam has said that, on the night of his detention, he was tortured and verbally abused. For an appearance in court the next day, Alam claims that his bloodied clothing was washed and ironed before it was put back on him, in an attempt to hide evidence of any assault. He was brought into court on 12 August, the seventh day of his remand, without warning – his lawyers were not present to object – and sent to prison in a yet unknown location, and for an unspecified amount of time.

In his 2013 essay ‘With Photography as my Guide’, Alam writes that he took to photography by accident: ‘My images weren’t great, but they were original.’ Part of this originality stemmed from Alam’s outright refusal to peddle any poverty or disaster porn, a genre of photography that is often favoured by the international press in its images from the subcontinent, and especially from Bangladesh. Alam began his career by extensively photographing protests against the military dictator Hussain Mohammad Ershad in 1982. When Ershad was finally ousted, Alam was there to photograph a woman casting her vote in a makeshift ballot booth in 1990. In 1991, a deadly cyclone hit Bangladesh, and, as Alam writes, ‘Suddenly, members of the Western media were all over us, their appetites insatiable. The image of the starving Bangladeshi with outstretched arms with the white man as the saviour was what they craved. My battle had just begun.’ Alam instead sent through images of people rebuilding boats, planting fresh crops, and medical workers providing care.

Shahidul Alam, A direct confrontation with the police in which bullets and batons were countered by stones from a thousand protestors. The police later used machine guns, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 10 November 1987. Courtesy: Shahidul Alam/Drik

The Jailing of Bangladeshi Photographer Shahidul Alam Is a Travesty for Free Speech - 孟加拉国摄影师沙伊杜尔(阿拉姆)的监禁是对言论自由的嘲弄。

Shahidul Alam, A direct confrontation with the police in which bullets and batons were countered by stones from a thousand protestors. The police later used machine guns, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 10 November 1987. Courtesy: Shahidul Alam/Drik

In an effort to articulate a new vocabulary for the subcontinent, in 1989 Alam founded the Drik Picture Library in Dhaka to address issues of advocacy and social justice. ‘We didn’t only take photographs. We used language, coining the term ‘Majority World’ as we found the descriptors ‘Third World’ or ‘Developing countries’ problematic,’ Alam writes. In the same year, he also established the Pathshala School of Photography in South Asia, a fully equipped photo resource center in Dhaka. Together with members of Drik and Pathshala, Alam initiated the Chobi Mela in 2000, a festival of photography that has gained much significance in South Asia, the tenth edition of which is scheduled for February 2019.

‘For those who don’t know Shahidul, he is the sky in which we learned to fly,’ writes Kolkata-based photographer Ronny Sen in just one of the many statements of solidarity over Alam’s arrest and detention. Messages have flooded in from across the globe, with protests taking place in Kolkata, London and Kathmandu. As we are haltingly relayed pieces of information on Alam’s shameful treatment and arrest, it is worth reflecting on how the subcontinent faces a severe crisis of freedom of speech, manifest in a wave of state-repression and sanctioned vigilantism. On the same day that Alam was arrested, artist Qutub Rind was brutally beaten and pushed to his death from the third floor of a building in Lahore, Pakistan. Early reports on Rind’s death suggest that an altercation began over Rind being accused of committing ‘blasphemy’ through his artworks. Just last April, university student Mashal Khan in Mardan, Pakistan, was lynched by a mob for posting ‘blasphemous’ content on social media. Pakistani laws against blasphemy are strict and allegations of ‘blasphemy’ are prone to trigger violent public reactions.

Shahidul Alam. Courtesy: Shahidul Alam; photograph: Rahnuma Ahmed

The Jailing of Bangladeshi Photographer Shahidul Alam Is a Travesty for Free Speech - 孟加拉国摄影师沙伊杜尔(阿拉姆)的监禁是对言论自由的嘲弄。

Shahidul Alam. Courtesy: Shahidul Alam; photograph: Rahnuma Ahmed

In India, it is much the same: newspapers have begun referring to social media as a new ‘serial killer’ – as of May 2018 alone, at least 16 people have been lynched by mobs fueled by posts circulating through Facebook and WhatsApp. It is widely believed that much of this fake news is produced by troll farms with close ties to political parties. In Bangladesh, since Alam’s abduction, and the quick dissemination of the news in the international press, there have been rumours that propaganda videos are being released through WhatsApp and Facebook to implicate other prominent people in arts, publishing and journalism. And without question, many are being closely surveilled.  Along with Alam, countless other journalists, bloggers, writers and members of the public are currently being detained under the ICT act. ‘Freedom of speech’ increasingly looks like a contemporary myth, with citizens of the subcontinent living under the mere guise of personal freedom.

Main image: Shahidul Alam, 8 August 2018. Courtesy: AFP and Getty Images

Skye Arundhati Thomas

Skye Arundhati Thomas is a writer based in Mumbai. She is a contributing editor at The White Review.

Shahidul Alam
Bangladesh
Photography
Freedom of Speech
Art & Protest
Skye Arundhati Thomas


意见- 14八月2018日孟加拉国摄影师SHIHUDUL阿拉姆的监禁是对言论自由的嘲弄。逮捕达卡摄影记者的“挑衅性评论”的摄影记者清楚地表明,该地区的个人自由是A s。孟加拉达卡首府Sky-ArdHaTi托马斯公司的火腿,是世界上第二大活跃的脸谱网用户。孟加拉也是一个社会媒体的普及与政治压制不断增加的国家。例如,2017年4月,孟加拉国南部SRimungl的橡胶种植园工人Muniul-伊斯兰教因喜欢和分享一个包括总理谢赫·哈西娜漫画在内的脸谱网邮报而被捕。根据信息和通信技术法案(ICT)第57条提交了一份谴责伊斯兰教的案子,描述了他的行为是“背叛国家”。伊斯兰教被拒绝保释,并被拘留了三个多月后,高级法院发布了他释放的文件(原《脸谱网邮报》的作者因害怕自己被捕而躲起来)。Shahidul Alam,一名学生尖叫着从一辆警车上的朋友,在达卡大学贾纳纳尔霍尔,警方突袭后,1996年1月31日,达卡,孟加拉。礼貌:Shahidul Alam / DRK The Jailing of Bangladeshi Photographer Shahidul Alam Is a Travesty for Free Speech - 孟加拉国摄影师沙伊杜尔(阿拉姆)的监禁是对言论自由的嘲弄。沙伊杜尔阿拉姆,一个学生尖叫,从一辆警车的朋友在达卡大学贾纳纳尔大厅,警方突袭后,1996年1月31日,达卡,孟加拉。礼貌:SHIHIDUL阿拉姆/ DRIK ICT是一个故意含糊其辞的立法,为任意逮捕提供了充足的理由,其中犯罪包括使用数字媒体“造成对国家的损害”或“制造无政府状态”。警察不需要出示逮捕令,法院被准许限制保释(他们几乎总是这样做),最低刑期是七年(最高,14)。正如最近一份人权观察报告中所列举的,自2013以来,警方已经对该法案提出了1271项指控。仅在2018的头三个月,这个数字就达到了282。随着凶猛的加剧,孟加拉国政府一直主动扣押和罚款平民,以打击“喜欢”和“共享”按钮在脸谱网上。2018年8月5日,学生们对达卡糟糕的道路安全基础设施进行了七天的抗议(七月,两名儿童因一辆超速行驶的公共汽车丧生),摄影记者、教师和社会活动家Shahidul Alam成为ICT法案的最新受害者。阿拉姆被30名便衣警官从家中绑架,这是孟加拉国警察的一个专门单位。Shahidul Alam,女人烹饪屋顶,Jinjira,达卡,孟加拉,1988。礼貌:Shahidul Alam / DRK The Jailing of Bangladeshi Photographer Shahidul Alam Is a Travesty for Free Speech - 孟加拉国摄影师沙伊杜尔(阿拉姆)的监禁是对言论自由的嘲弄。沙伊杜尔阿拉姆,妇女烹饪屋顶上,Jinjira,达卡,孟加拉,1988。礼貌:Shahidul Alam在阿拉姆接受了半岛电视台采访并上传视频到脸谱网之后,几小时后,他宣布他与抗议的学生团结一致,谴责政府腐败。阿拉姆提到了警察的暴力策略:用橡皮子弹枪和催泪弹袭击学生抗议者,甚至用木棍击打学生。他谴责“抢劫银行、媒体的唠叨、司法之外的杀人事件……”一个永无休止的清单。阿拉姆说,在他被拘留的那天晚上,他遭到酷刑和口头辱骂。第二天在法庭上,阿拉姆声称他的血洗衣服在被放回他之前被洗和熨烫,试图隐藏任何攻击的证据。8月12日,他被送回法庭,这是他的还押的第七天,没有任何警告——他的律师不在场,在一个未知的地点被送进监狱。阿拉姆在他的2013篇以摄影为向导的文章中写道,他偶然发现了摄影:“我的照片不是很好,但它们是原创的。”这一独创性的一部分源于阿拉姆直截了当地拒绝兜售任何贫穷或灾难性的色情作品,这是一种摄影风格。经常受到国际新闻界对其次大陆形象的青睐,尤其是来自孟加拉的形象。阿拉姆于1982开始广泛拍摄反对军事独裁者Hussain Mohammad Ershad的抗议活动。当Ershad最终被赶下台的时候,阿拉姆在那里拍了一张照片,照片中一个女人在1990的临时投票站投票。在1991,一场致命的飓风袭击了孟加拉,正如阿拉姆所写的,“突然,西方媒体的成员都在我们身边,他们的欲望永不满足。饥饿的孟加拉国人伸出手臂和白人作为救星的形象是他们渴望的。我的战斗才刚刚开始。阿拉姆反而通过人们重建船只、种植新鲜庄稼和医护人员的照片。Shahidul Alam,直接与警方对抗,子弹和警棍被一千名抗议者的石头击退。警方后来使用机枪,达卡,孟加拉,1987年11月10日。礼貌:Shahidul Alam / Drk WPA6060602IMG沙伊杜尔阿拉姆,直接与警察对抗,子弹和警棍被一千名抗议者的石头所反击。警方后来使用机枪,达卡,孟加拉,1987年11月10日。礼貌:SHIHIDUL阿拉姆/ DRIK致力于为次大陆创造一个新的词汇,1989,阿拉姆在达卡成立了DRIK图片库,以解决宣传和社会公正的问题。我们不仅拍照。我们使用语言,写出“多数世界”这一术语,因为我们发现描述符“第三世界”或“发展中国家的问题”,阿拉姆写道。在同一年,他还建立了PasSala摄影学校在南亚,一个设备齐全的照片资源中心在达卡。与Drik和Pathshala的成员一起,阿拉姆于2000开始了Chabi Mela,这是一个在南亚获得了重大意义的摄影节,第十版定于2019年2月举行。“对于那些不认识Shahidul的人来说,他是我们学会飞行的天空,”加尔各答摄影师Ronny Sen在阿拉姆被捕和拘留的团结声明中写道。消息从全球各地涌来,在加尔各答、伦敦和加德满都发生抗议活动。当我们在阿拉姆的可耻的对待和逮捕时,中断了一些信息,这是值得反思的,这个次大陆是如何面对一个严重的言论自由危机,表现在一个国家压制和被制裁的警戒主义浪潮中。就在阿拉姆被捕的同一天,艺术家Qutub Rind被残忍殴打,并从巴基斯坦拉合尔的一栋大楼的第三层被推死。早期关于凛德逝世的报道表明,一个争论开始于果皮被指控通过他的作品“亵渎神明”。就在去年四月,巴基斯坦Mardan的大学生Mashal Khan被一群暴徒私刑,在社交媒体上发布“亵渎神明”的内容。巴基斯坦对亵渎神权的法律是严格的,对“亵渎神明”的指控很容易引发暴力的公众反应。Shahidul Alam。礼貌:Shahidul Alam;照片:RaNuMa艾哈迈德WAPP6024602IMG沙伊杜尔阿拉姆。礼貌:Shahidul Alam;相片:Rahnuma Ahmed在印度,情况大致相同:报纸已经开始把社交媒体称为一个新的“连环杀手”了。截至2018年5月,至少有16人被脸谱网和WH的帖子所煽动的暴徒私刑。阿萨普人们普遍认为,许多假新闻是由与政党紧密联系的巨魔农场生产的。在孟加拉,自从阿拉姆被绑架,在国际媒体上迅速传播新闻以来,一直有谣言说,通过WhatsApp和脸谱网发布宣传视频,以牵扯到艺术、出版和新闻界的其他杰出人物。毫无疑问,许多人正在密切关注。和阿拉姆一样,无数的其他记者、博客作者、作家和公众成员目前都在ICT法案下被拘留。“言论自由”越来越像是一个当代神话,次大陆的公民生活在个人自由的幌子下。主要形象:Shahidul Alam,2018年8月8日。礼貌:法新社和盖蒂图像SkyArdHaTi托马斯SkyArdHaTi托马斯是一个作家在孟买。她是《怀特评论》的特约编辑。沙伊杜尔阿拉姆孟加拉国摄影艺术言论自由与抗议Skye Arundhati Thomas


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