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Day of the Imprisoned Writer 2018 - Take Action for Shahidul Alam

Monday 12 November 2018 - 2:19pm

Shahidul Alam

Update - 15 November 2018

PEN International welcomes the news that Shahidul Alam was granted bail today. PEN continues to call for the case against Alam to be dropped.

"While it is a relief to see the court in Dhaka granting bail to Shahidul Alam, it is by no means certain that he is free. The government is still determined to appeal in its ill-conceived pursuit of Shahidul on ridiculous charges under Bangladesh’s draconian laws. Those charges must be dropped immediately and Shahidul should be released unconditionally and his freedoms restored - freedoms which should never have been taken away," said Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee.


Award-winning photographer, writer and activist - Shahidul Alam - was taken from his home in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, by plainclothes police officers on the night of 5 August 2018. Shortly before his arrest, Alam had given an interview to the news agency Al Jazeera in which he was critical of the government’s handling of student-led protests - which had been calling for better road safety laws after two teenagers were killed by a speeding bus on 29 July. The government responded to the protests by firing teargas and rubber bullets into the crowds of protestors, injuring hundreds.

On 6 August, Alam was brought before a lower court in Dhaka and accused of “making provocative comments”, and “giving false information” to the media under Section 57 of Bangladesh’s draconian Information Communications Technology Act (ICT Act). Section 57 has been widely criticised for restricting freedom of expression and has led to scores of arrests.

Alam publicly claimed he was tortured during his detention.  He remained in custody pending a bail hearing scheduled for 11 September, during which his application for bail was denied. Following this denial, Bangladesh’s High Court imposed a one-week deadline on the government to explain why Alam was being held indefinitely and without bail, which the government has not honoured.

If convicted, 63-year old Alam faces a minimum of 7 years and a maximum of 14 years in prison. Friends and family who have visited him have raised concerns for his deteriorating health. PEN International believes that Alam is being held solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and calls on the Bangladeshi authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally.

Take Action: Share on Facebook, Twitter and other social media using the hashtag #freeshahidulalam #ImprisonedWriter

Please send appeals:

  • Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Shahidul Alam;
  • Expressing serious concern for Shahidul Alam’s well-being and urging that he is provided with adequate medical care and treatment and not subjected to ill-treatment while in custody;
  • Calling for an independent investigation into Shahidul Alam’s allegations of torture and for those found responsible to be held to account;
  • Expressing concerns over the continued application of section 57 of the ICT Act despite repeated commitments of the Bangladeshi government to repeal this provision;
  • Reminding the authorities of their obligations to secure the right to freedom of expression including peaceful criticism of political authorities under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bangladesh is a state party.

Appeals to:

Prime Minister

Sheikh Hasina

Old Sangsad Bhaban

Tejgaon, Dhaka-1215,


Fax: +880-2-8113-244; +880-2-8111-015


Salutation: Dear Prime Minister

Minister of Home Affairs

Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal

Bangladesh Secretariat



Fax: +880 2 913 3498

Tel: +880 2 957 4800


Saluation: Honourable Home Minister

Inspector General of Police

Mohammad Javed Patwary

Police Headquarters



Fax: +880 2 712 5840

Tel: +880 2 951 4444; +880 2 951 4445


Salutation: Dear Inspector General

Please copy your appeals to the Ambassador for Bangladesh in your country, asking for their comments. A list of diplomatic missions can be found here.

For additional background information on Shahidul Alam, please click here.

For further details contact Emma Wadsworth-Jones at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK Tel: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338  e-mail: