Seeking to challenge complex social, economic, environmental and human rights issues through documentary non-fiction storytelling and education.

Bulletin on our Board Member, Dr Shahidul Alam who has been incarcerated in Bangladesh since August 5th 2018.

On August 5th, Shahidul Alam, a member of our VII Foundation Advisory Board, was arrested by plainclothes police while in his home in Dhaka, hours after giving an interview for Al Jazeera criticizing the Bangladeshi government’s response to recent school student protests on road safety. He was charged the following day for “provocative comments” allegedly violating a law targeting speech that “tends to hurt” the image of the state of Bangladesh. According to witnesses he showed clear signs of physical distress when appearing before a magistrate on August 6th, and he asserted he was tortured shortly after his arrest. He was initially denied access to his lawyers. He has been in detainment without bail since, with the exception of short hospital check-ups. Visits by his partner, the distinguished anthropologist and democracy and human rights activist Rahnuma Ahmed, have been very restricted. 

Shahidul is Bangladesh’s, and perhaps South Asia's, foremost photojournalist, focusing on social justice and advocating for the inclusion of diverse voices and perspectives in the documentary field. Self-taught, his work has been prominently featured in the region and in most internationally recognized Western news outlets, including The New York Times and National Geographic. In 1989, he founded Drik ("vision" in Sanskrit) Picture Library to support the work of local photographers from Asia, Africa, and South America, and to combat the image of the “third world” by reconceiving it as the “majority world” holding most of the globe’s peoples and cultures. In 1998, he founded the Pathshala ("Seat of Learning") South Asian Media Institute in 1998, to offer education programs in photography and multimedia journalism. His book My Journey as a Witness has been described as “the most important book ever written by a photographer” by John Morris, the former picture editor of Life Magazine.

On September 11th, Shahidul’s bail plea was denied by the Dhaka Metropolitan Session Judge’s Court. His bail petition had been repeatedly deferred by the High Court of Bangladesh for nearly a month, and and an order to grant him status as “Division 1 Under Trial Prisoner,” filed on August 27th, was implemented only yesterday. His health status is still uncertain following his physical abuse, and there is no indication that he has received adequate medicine or hospital treatment, particularly for his badly bruised mouth.

VII stands in solidarity with all international and domestic pressure leveraged towards Shahidul’s release and in defense of his rights. We strongly encourage any and all who read this to add their voices to major petitions, including those below, and to reach out with any information or ideas which you believe might help:

Amnesty International

Care2

Change.org

Pen International