Imprisoned journalist freed

New York, June 2, 2004—Sami Yousafzai, a stringer for Newsweek, was released without charge from prison today by local authorities in Miran Shah, the capital of the North Waziristan Agency near the Pakistani-Afghan border, according to local journalists. Mohamed Salim, a driver hired by Yousafzai and arrested with him, was also released.

On April 21, Yousafzai was arrested along with Salim and Eliza Griswold, an American freelance journalist, at a military checkpoint near the town of Bannu in the North West Frontier Province. The province borders the tribal areas in western Pakistan. Security officials in Peshawar, the regional capital, questioned Griswold for several hours and then released her. Yousafzai and Salim were detained incommunicado for several weeks in Peshawar before being transferred to Miran Shah.

Authorities returned Yousafzai’s equipment and personal belongings that they had seized during his arrest. Yousafzai returned home to his family today in Peshawar, according to local journalists.

Yousafzai, an Afghan national, is a former correspondent for the English-language daily The News.

“While we are relieved that Sami Yousafzai was released, we remain disturbed that he was arrested and held without charge to begin with,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “Yousafzai’s detention highlights a pattern of targeting local journalists who work with foreign reporters, and we urge authorities to stop these attacks on press freedom.”

For background on Sami Yousafzai’s case, please see CPJ’s May 10 protest letter and April 27 news alert.