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

Photo of Shahidul Alam by Rahnuma Ahmed

Photo of Shahidul Alam by Rahnuma Ahmed

Bulletin on our Board Member, Dr Shahidul Alam who was recently incarcerated in Bangladesh.

On November 20, 2018, after more than hundred days in prison, Shahidul Alam, a member of our VII Foundation Advisory Board, was released on bail, but the case against him has not been dropped. If convicted after trial, he faces jail term up to 14 years on charges of spreading propaganda against the government under Bangladesh’s Information Communication and Technology Act (ICT), a law that human rights groups have decried as ‘draconian’. His next court hearing is due in the second week of December.  

On August 5th, Shahidul Alam 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, were 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.