Melbourne professor detained in Bangladesh for spreading 'propaganda'


Photography professor Dr Shahidul Alam has been held for more than a month.

His photos have filled the pages of leading publications including Time Magazine and The New York Times, but for the last month, Dr Shahidul Alam has faced the inside of a prison cell.

The visiting professor at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology was arrested last month at the height of student protests calling for better road safety, following the death of two students in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka.

The Bangladeshi national was photographing the protests and also made comments in an interview with Al Jazeera and on his Facebook page criticising the government’s violent response to the demonstrations.

On Tuesday, a judge in Dhaka denied his application for bail.

Shahidul Alam is an internationally renowned photographer.
Shahidul Alam is an internationally renowned photographer.

Dr Alam was arrested at his home on 5 August and charged with spreading propaganda under the country’s Information and Communication Technology Act.

He later accused the police of assaulting him during his arrest.  

RMIT University photography lecturer Alan Hill was worked with Dr Alam for over a decade across multiple Australian universities.

“You look around in the world and who are the global leaders [in documentary photography] and there is really no one more important than Shahidul Alam, especially in our region,” he told SBS News.

He said he was shocked at his arrest. 

A photo by Shahidul Alam.
A photo by Shahidul Alam.

Dr Alam's story has prompted a chorus of international criticism, including a letter signed by ten Nobel Laureates calling for his release. 

Amnesty International campaign manager Tim O’Connor told SBS News the law Dr Alam is being charged under is draconian.

“The government of Bangladesh certainly has been using this law to silence democratic peaceful protest. Shahidul Alam is a prisoner of conscience, he has been arrested under this law for expressing his democratic right,” he said.

Dr Alam’s colleagues at RMIT University are calling for the Australian government to advocate for his release.

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