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Photos of extrajudicial killings banned

Art can be a powerful medium for ideas and information, to challenge repression. A photo exhibit about extrajudicial executions in Dhaka, Bangladesh, was banned on 22 March, report Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and ARTICLE 19. The ban was revoked a week later after the gallery owner, who received death threats, appealed the decision in court.

The exhibit, "Crossfire," by Shahidul Alam, features photographs and installations relating to alleged extrajudicial killings by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), a military-dominated crime-fighting force. Officers often say these are "crossfire" killings in which they act in self defense or to stop alleged criminals from escaping.

Since RAB was established in 2004 it has killed more than 500 people. No one has been prosecuted for the killings. Many victims of the "cross-fire" killings have instead either been tortured to death or summarily shot. At least four journalists have been tortured by RAB members since 2007, says RSF.

Drik gallery owner and well-known photographer, Shahidul Alam, received death threats days after the exhibit was shut down. Police surrounded the gallery until they were ordered by the government to withdraw on 31 March.

ARTICLE 19 featured the Dhaka exhibit in the March edition of its "Artist Alert", which highlights cases of artists worldwide whose right to freedom of expression has been trampled. The bulletin also mentions the award-winning Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi who was detained along with his wife, daughter and 15 guests by Iranian security on 1 March. His wife, daughter and guests have been released, but Panahi continues to be held incommunicado in Tehran's Evin prison.

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