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Protesters demand Shahidul’s release during UNGA

  • Published at 04:09 pm September 28th, 2018
Protesters demanding Shahidul Alam's release
Protesters gather in front of the UNGA in New York to demand the release of Shahidul Alam on September 27, 2018 Salim Hasbini

Actor Sharon Stone, activist Kerry Kennedy, and Professor of Columbia University Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak endorsed the protest

Demonstrators have gathered outside the UN General Assembly to call for freedom of the press and protecting  journalists in Bangladesh.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), PEN America, Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch joined family and friends of Shahidul Alam to demand his release—as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina addressed the UN General Assembly (UNGA), read a press release. 

Thursday’s protest was endorsed by: human rights groups, journalist’s associations, rights activist Kerry Kennedy, actress and activist Sharon Stone—and attended by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, among others.

Shahidul, an internationally-renowned Bangladeshi photographer, photojournalist, and activist, has been in police custody since August 5. His arrest followed an interview he gave to Al Jazeera in which he criticized the government following issues raised during the then-ongoing student protests in Dhaka.

“The world has a good image of Bangladesh because of its response to the Rohingya crisis. The detention of Shahidul is tarnishing that image,” said Shahidul Alam’s cousin, Salma Ahmed.

During Thursday’s protest, Columbia University Professor Gayatri Spivak said: “What is really important for the state is that if one silences the creative artists and intellectuals, then the conscience of the state is killed; because it’s the role of the creative artists and intellectuals to make constructive criticism so that the state can be a real democracy.”

“Shahidul is a living legend who taught throughout his life how to see the light of our country, even during his darkest hours. He has always come from a place of integrity and sacrificed himself for all of us by speaking truth to power, and for that he is being wrongly imprisoned,” said Wasfia Nazreen, National Geographic Explorer and Bangladesh’s only Seven Summiteer.

The protestors denounced the imprisonment of Shahidul, journalists, and student protesters in Bangladesh. Kerry Kennedy, human rights activist and daughter of Senator Bobby Kennedy, made a strong statement: “Shahidul Alam is wrongfully detained, and I proudly stand with those who are calling for his immediate and unconditional release. Bangladesh should comply with its international human rights obligations and free Shahidul Alam today.”

“Shahidul’s detention is an attempt to intimidate and silence voices of dissent in Bangladesh,” claimed Julie Trébault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection at PEN America. 

The call for Shahidul’s release was earlier supported by 12 Nobel Laureates and international figures including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Amartya Sen, and Dr Yunus. Several British MPs of Bangladeshi origin have also come out in support of Shahidul—including Tulip Siddiq.

Protestors demanded the unconditional release of Shahidul, and for all charges to be dropped against him and others held in similar circumstances.