Dhaka, July 30: A renowned Bangladesh photographer on Sunday said he has been the victim of "unwanted cruelty" after being sacked over an image of a couple kissing that raised a social media storm in the conservative Muslim-majority country.
The Purboposhchimbd news portal said Jibon Ahmed was "not fit" to work for the company because of doubts about whether the kiss image was staged.
Ahmed protested his innocence, insisted he has proof the image was spontaneous and said he has been roughed up by other photographers because of the image.
"I never ever believed that one click would create so many stories. Today due to this photo, the social and mainstream media are flooded with false and true stories about me," he said of the divisions.
The couple were snapped kissing in monsoon rain on the steps of the Dhaka University campus.
He posted it - with the caption "Songs of rains - let love be free" - on his Facebook page while the news portal also used it.
The photo quickly went viral in Bangladesh.
It drew social media praise for bringing a hint of social freedom. But conservatives questioned whether the photo had breached Bangladesh's public decency mores.
Media commenters asked whether Ahmed sought the couple's permission to publish the photo.
Ahmed - who captured the harrowing aftermath of an attack on a Bangladesh-born US writer hacked to death by Islamist extremists on the Dhaka campus three years ago - said other photographers confronted him over the kiss image.
"They asked me why did I shoot the photo. One of them slapped me during the quarrel," he said. "I said it was a symbol of pure love."
After publishing the photo, Purboposhchimbd later wrote an article saying it believed the photo was "preplanned" and the photographer had "apologised".
The editor, Khujista Nur-e-Naharin, said the company asked Ahmed to take legal action against the photographers who allegedly beat him but he did not turn up for a meeting to discuss the issue.
She also said there were suspicions the photo was staged with "models" and that Ahmed was not "fit" to work for the news portal.
"We have asked him many times to come and explain why he was roughed up and why he had said sorry to the photographers and whether models were used for the photo. He did not communicate with me. He dented our honour," she said.
Ahmed, who said he was sacked, rejected the employer's criticism, and insisted he has proof that that the image was "natural". He said his conscience would not let him sue his fellow journalists.
The couple in the photo have not made any public comment.