A Bangladeshi photojournalist clicked photo of a couple kissing in a monsoon downpour, sitting on a deck of stairs – the photo offended many and ignited a public morality debate.
Photojournalist Jibon Ahmed captured the romantic scene on the campus of University of Dhaka. Many appreciated the photographer’s work, along with the couple, as it was a breath of fresh air for them in the suffocating environment of the varsity which has been marred by protests recently.
However, for others in the Muslim-majority country, the picture was indecent.
The 30-year-old photographer told The Washington Post he was looking for a perfect shot when he saw the couple kissing in the rain. He clicked the moment and sent it to the news portal, Purboposhchimbd, he worked for. Ahmed was confident they would like his work and would run it.
However, to his disappointment, editors at the newsroom refused to use the photo as they feared it would spark backlash which wouldn’t be good for the publication.
“I said, no, you cannot portray this photo negatively, because I found it a symbol of pure love,” he told the post.
The refusal didn’t deter Ahmed from sharing his work and he decided to post the photo on Facebook and Instagram – it went viral instantly garnering mixed response.
Ahmed said not only was he was reprimanded for clicking the photo; he was also treated violently by his colleagues at his workplace. His manager also asked him to hand him his ID and laptop.
“The couple had a spontaneous lip kiss; I found nothing wrong in them or no obscenity. Of course I am disheartened. Some people in our country became educated only in papers, but they are not educated in a real sense. They failed to realize the underlying meaning of my photograph. I am also a bit worried about myself,” he added.
The photojournalist also told the network that a “twisted sense of morality cannot dictate an artist's work.”
Despite Ahmed’s claims, the editor of the Purboposhchimbd, Khujista Nur-e-Naharin, said the violent attack on the photojournalist was not related to the photo and was because of personal reasons. He also said they had told Ahmed that they would help him and take a legal action but apparently he never showed up for the meeting.
“The attack was not related to the professional duties. These attacks were the result of his personal transactions. Everyone at the editorial level congratulates him for taking this picture,” he said.
Bangladesh is a conservative Muslim-majority country where religious extremism remains susceptible. The government has initiated steps to curb extremism, terrorism, drug abuse and other anti-social menaces – but looks like there is a long way to go.
Spotlight, Banner: Photo by Rehman Asad/NurPhoto via Getty Images