'The government is destroying its own promises of building a secular, tolerant country by misusing government and law enforcement agencies to curb people’s freedom'
A group of eminent Bangladeshi personalities have condemned the arrest, imprisonment, and repeated refusals of bail of renowned photojournalist Shahidul Alam.
The ¬group, which consists of renowned individuals from various fields, expressed their concerns regarding the matter in a press release published on Tuesday.
The press release said Shahidul Alam has been in prison for over 40 days after being convicted under the highly-debated Section 57 of the Information Technology Act, despite the fact that there have been several mentions of amending or abolishing the law from the highest levels of the government.
The statement also said using such a questionable law to harass Shahidul and others is against the spirits of democracy and the Liberation War.
It further stated that even though Shahidul Alam is supposed to have rights just like any other citizen, taking away his right to make bail has created a bad example which has surprised and concerned the nation. In any real democracy, a person is allowed to criticize anything – even if it is not a popular opinion. However, it has been seen that recently, criticism of the government is being considered tantamount to anarchy.
The government is destroying its own promises of building a secular, tolerant country by misusing government and law enforcement agencies to curb people’s freedom, the press release said.
People who have criticized the use of force against protesters for the quota reform or road safety movements have done nothing wrong; their criticism was born from a deep-rooted respect for democracy and the people of the country. Such criticism should not be considered an act of anarchy, the document continued.
The tendency of certain people in the government to consider any form of criticism or opposition as a plot to depose the government is undemocratic, and against fundamental constitutional rights. They must oust this sentiment and focus on protecting citizens and their rights instead.
The press release also said bail is a right of any citizen, and thus Shahidul Alam is entitled to it. He must therefore be released and his rights respected.
It also requested the government to abolish any laws that oppose or curb the freedom of expression, or rights of any citizen.
The note was signed by Khushi Kabir, Prof Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, Prof Ajoy Roy, Prof AN Rasheda, Prof Anu Muhammad, Dr Md Tanzimuddin Khan, Sultana Kamal, Meghna Guhathakurta, Shaheen Anam, Shireen Huq, Shamsul Huda, Zakir Hossain, Hamida Hossain, Dil Monowara Manu, Adv Tabarak Hossain, Engr Enamul Haque, Sayeeda Gullu, Baki Billah, Shakhawat Tipu, Avinu Kibria Islam, Lubna Mariam, Arup Rahi, Prof Gitiara Nasreen, Robaet Ferdous, Mesbah Kamal, Prof M Anwarullah Bhuiyan, Prof Ainun Nahar, Prof Swadhin Sen, Prof Sayeed Ferdous, Prof Manosh Chowdhury, Prof Ashraful Munim, Raihan Rayin, Mahmudul Sumon, Anisa Parveen, Himel Barkat, Sharmind Nilormi, Mafruhi Sattar, Shahid Sumon, Raihan Sharif, Sayema Khatun, Nasrin Khandakar, Masud Imran Mannu, Mahbubur Rahman, Tayeba Begum Lipi, Anisur Rahman Sohel, Khandakar Nasir Ahmed, Ritu Sattar, Jewel A Rob, Shubho Saha, Imran Sohail, Syed Md Zakir, Farah Naz Moon, and Rasel Chowdhury.