Abduction of Pakistani journalist critical of the government sparks outrage

Islamabad, Jul 21 (efe-epa).- The abduction of a well-known Pakistani journalist – critical of the powerful military – in Islamabad on Tuesday has led to widespread criticism by human rights groups and press freedom watchdogs in the country, where media professionals face a number of threats due to their work.

Matiullah Jan, a freelancer who has worked for numerous Pakistani and foreign media houses in the past, was seen for the last time on Tuesday morning in front of a school in central Islamabad where his wife teaches.

“Matiullahjan, my father, has been abducted from the heart of the capital Islamabad. I demand he be found and the agencies behind it immediately be held responsible,” his family posted on his twitter handle.

CCTV camera footage shared by journalists on social networks shows a group of men, many of them in uniform and carrying weapons, arriving in three cars and detaining the journalist.

Hours later, Information Minister Shibli Faraz confirmed the incident.

“This much is established that he (Jan) has been kidnapped,” Faraz said in a press conference after a cabinet meeting.

“We will try to find out where he is and how he can be recovered. This is the responsibility of the government,” he added.

The news of the abduction of Jan, who was very critical of the powerful military and has had a long career in the national media, evoked criticism from human rights groups and press guilds.

“We are extremely concerned for the fate and wellbeing of @matiullahjan919. He has been the subject of physical attacks and harassment for his journalism,” Amnesty International tweeted.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists has urged the government to take measure to free Jan.

The NGO Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also endorsed the demand and expressed concern over the “increasing attempts to control the media, suppress independent voices, and curb political dissent.”

Jan has been vocal against the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan and had been running a YouTube channel that often criticized the military after having resigned in 2018 as an anchor for the broadcaster Waqt News

Last week, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had open a case of contempt against Jan over a Tweet criticizing judges.

The Freedom Network, a Pakistani non-profit monitoring the state of journalism in the country, recorded around 91 attacks against journalists and freedom of the press in the country between May 2019 and April 2020.

These included seven murders, 12 attempts to murder, two kidnappings, nine arrests by state forces, 10 physical assaults, 23 threats, 10 cases of censorship, and 10 court cases against scribes. EFE-EPA


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