DHAKA: Just days after a photography show at the Drik Picture Library in Dhaka was shuttered by police the gallery’s managing director, Shahidul Alam, has received a death threat from a still unidentified man.
An exhibition of Alam’s photographs at the gallery was closed by government order on March 22nd. A man burst into the shuttered gallery on March 27th demanding to know the photographer’s whereabouts. When a security guard asked the man his business he refused to give his name, saying only that Alam would meet his death in the street.
Earlier that same day the gallery had filed a writ against the Bangladeshi government challenging its right to close the show. The exhibition, called Crossfire, displays photos Alam has made depicting the likely execution places of individuals killed by the RAB, the covert Bangladeshi force formed to combat violent crime which has been accused by some human-rights groups of murdering more than 1,000 people since its creation six years ago.
Of concern to press-freedom advocates in the region is that the action against on the gallery and the threat on Alam’s life occurred only weeks after a violent threat made against Nurul Kabir, editor of New Age. Both Kabir and Alam have been consistent critics of the government and its allies in Bangladesh.
Alam is taking the threat seriously. In 1996, unknown assailants stabbed him on the street during a period of crackdown against anti-government activists. Brian Palmer, an OPC member and a friend of Alam’s recalls that in an interview with Alam in 2008, Alam said, “at the time many human-rights groups were afraid to take a stand publicly, so the seat of resistance became the gallery. I was stopped in the street and eight knives were put into me.”