Harassment of US photojournalist in Bangladesh

News Hour:

The owner of a hotel in Kushtia was arrested on Monday after an American female freelance photojournalist claimed he repeatedly tried to gain access to her room in the middle of the night.

Bishwanath Das Bishu was picked up by police from Chhoy Rasta intersection in the town around 1pm on Monday and taken to Sadar police station for several hours of questioning over the allegation, which he denies. His arrest followed an executive magistrate order to police to investigate the matter, which occurred on March 6.

Boston-born photojournalist Allison Joyce told the Dhaka Tribune that she went to Kushtia to cover a story on child marriage and checked in to the Kheya Hotel around 4pm on March 5. Joyce said her “nightmare” experience started when she awoken at about 12:30 in the night because proprietor Bishwanath and his staff were being loud in the hallway near her room.

“I went out to tell them to be quiet but Saha (Bishwanath Das Bishu) came to my room and stood in the doorway preventing me from closing the door. He was rambling drunkenly and incoherently telling me not to shout in the hallway,” Joyce said.

“After about two minutes, I managed to convince him to go and let me shut the door. I went back to sleep and 30 minutes later this whole thing started,” she said.

Accused Bishwanath – one of the four owners of Kheya Hotel – has claimed that he and several other staff went to talk to Joyce about a complaint she had raised of noise pollution from nearby places.

In a written complaint emailed to police and a local Awami League leader on March 9, however, Joyce says it was 1am when Bishwanath tried to break into her room.

“He was sh*t-faced drunk. For 30 minutes he knocked, called my phone, tried to open the door, and demanded the master key from the hotel staff. I was a woman travelling alone,” she wrote.

With the complaint, she enclosed screenshots of her mobile phone’s call records. “There would have been more calls but I put my phone on airplane mode for a while to stop ringing”.

Local journalist Ali Ahsan, who had been working with Joyce on a story, went to the hotel immediately after hearing from her. They checked out and searched for a suitable hotel on his motorcycle, followed by a rickshaw that carried her luggage.

At 3am they went to Rose View Hotel but Joyce was refused a room. “They refused to accept me as a guest as I am a woman,” she said. Police are now verifying this allegation.

With the help of Ahsan, Joyce finally managed to secure a room at an NGO dormitory at around 4:30am.

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