In response to the news that photographer Shahidul Alam has been granted bail by a High Court bench in Bangladesh, PEN America issued the following statement:

“We are relieved that after 102 days in detention and several unsuccessful attempts to secure bail while the case filed against him is under investigation, Shahidul Alam has finally been granted bail,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America. “We now call on Bangladeshi authorities to ensure his prompt release, and for the charges to be dropped altogether. Free expression is not a crime, and Alam should never have been detained under a repressive law for simply expressing his opinion about current events.”

Alam, an award-winning photographer, writer, and activist, was arrested on August 5 hours after news outlet Al-Jazeera released an interview with the artist discussing ongoing student demonstrations in Bangladesh. Alam had photographed the student protesters in Dhaka and discussed the demonstrations on Facebook Live. Alam was charged under Section 57 of Bangladesh’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act, a restrictive law regulating online speech that “tends to deprave or corrupt,” or opposes the state’s ideology. In recent years, the ICT Act has been used repeatedly to crack down on journalists, writers, and activists.  More information on PEN America’s work on Bangladesh can be found here


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager: [email protected]