Pakistani journalist abducted, released in Karachi

New York, March 22, 2001–The Committee to Protect journalists joins with colleagues in Pakistan in calling for an immediate investigation into Monday’s abduction and abuse of senior journalist and vice president of the Karachi Union of Journalists, Mohammad Rafique Baloch.

According to the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Baloch was on his way to the Sindh High Court, in Karachi, when he was picked up by a group of men, forced into a vehicle, taken to an unknown destination, and released in a remote area of the city around 1 a.m. this morning. He had been picked up near the Sindh Legislative Assembly building, close to the center of the sprawling city.

The PFUJ said Baloch was verbally abused and manhandled by his abductors. The group called for an impartial inquiry into the incident.

“The most recent attack on Mohammad Rafique Baloch is an indicator of the government’s increasing inability to protect its citizens, including journalists,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “We fear that this attack will go uninvestigated as so many others have.” 

On January 13, Geo TV reporter Wali Khan Babar was shot and killed in Karachi shortly after covering gang violence in the city. On Monday, Capital City Police Officer Saud Mirza told a press conference about the arrest of a group of alleged ‘contract killers” that any progress into the investigation of Babar would be made at “an appropriate time.”

In early September 2010, men in police uniforms abducted and beat Umar Cheema, a correspondent of the English-language daily The News in Islamabad. Men in police uniforms seized Cheema while he was driving in a suburb of Islamabad. No arrests have been made in that case either. The well-known political reporter was held captive for more than six hours. He was dropped, bound, near his car, where he had been picked up earlier. His abductors told him to stop writing articles critical of the government, Cheema told several Pakistani papers and television stations after his release. Some reports said his captors mentioned other media outlets whose reporters would meet the same fate as Cheema.

Pakistan was the deadliest country in the world in 2010, according to CPJ data. The country also ranked 10th on CPJ’s Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are regularly killed and authorities fail to solve the crimes.