New York, April 27, 2004–The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the ongoing detention of Sami Yousafzai, a stringer for the magazine Newsweek who was arrested last week at a military checkpoint in Bannu, a town in the North West Frontier Province near the tribal areas in western Pakistan, according to local news reports.
Yousafzai was traveling by car with American freelance journalist Eliza Griswold on April 21 when they were stopped at a military checkpoint in Bannu. Yousafzai, Griswold, and the car’s driver, Mohamed Salim, were then arrested and taken away separately for questioning, according to local reports. Security officers in Peshawar, the regional capital, held Griswold for questioning for several hours and later released her. Yousafzai and Salim have not been heard from since their arrest.
The news wire agency Pakistan Press International reported Griswold’s arrest on April 22, claiming that the Pakistani “government has foiled another plot woven by Western media to malign the country at an international level,” and that Yousafzai was “taken into custody by the security officers.”
Yousafzai, an Afghan national, is a former correspondent for the English-language daily The News. Local journalist groups and human rights groups issued statements yesterday and today protesting against Yousafzai’s ongoing detention and demanding his release.
In December 2003, another Pakistani journalist who had worked with foreign journalists, Khawar Mehdi Rizvi, was arrested and secretly detained for several weeks before being charged with sedition, conspiracy, and impersonation. Rizvi was released on bail on March 27, but the charges against him, which carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, still stand.
“We are outraged by the detention of our colleague Sami Yousafzai,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “Yousafzai should be released immediately.”