CPJ urges kidnappers to release Daniel Pearl

New York, January 28, 2002—CPJ is deeply concerned about Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who has been missing in Pakistan since January 23. A previously unknown group stated in an e-mail to news organizations that they had abducted Pearl and accused him of working for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

“Daniel Pearl is a distinguished journalist, much admired by his colleagues in the press,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “Targeting reporters who are working independently to report the news will never advance anyone’s political agenda. CPJ calls on Daniel Pearl’s kidnappers to release him immediately.”

Pearl is the Journal‘s South Asia bureau chief, based in Bombay. According to Agence France-Presse, he was last seen after being dropped by a taxi at the Metropole Hotel in Karachi, where he was scheduled to interview Mubarak Ali Shah Gilani, the head of an Islamist militant organization called Tanzeem-ul-Fuqra.

On January 27, a group calling itself “The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty” sent an e-mail to several U.S. and Pakistan-based news organizations claiming responsibility for kidnapping Pearl and accusing him of working for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The e-mail also included four photos of Pearl, including one in which he is being held at gunpoint and another in which he is holding a copy of the January 24 issue of Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper.

U.S. officials have been unable to verify the authenticity of the photos. Both The Wall Street Journal and the C.I.A. have denied that Pearl had any connection with the C.I.A.

The e-mail also protested the conditions of detainees being kept by the U.S. Army in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The sender(s), who used a Hotmail e-mail account in the name of “Kidnapperguy,” said Pearl was “at present being kept in very inhuman circumstances quite similar infact [sic] to the way that Pakistanis and nationals of other sovereign countries are being kept in Cuba by the American Army.” They called on the U.S. to send all Pakistani detainees in Cuba back to Pakistan for trial.

Pearl has worked for the Journal since 1990, beginning at the Atlanta bureau. He then moved to Washington, London, Paris, and his current base, Bombay, India. Pearl and his wife had been staying in Karachi for about three weeks. Prior to working at the Journal, Pearl was a reporter for local newspapers in Massachusetts.