Journalist abducted in Pakistan tribal area

New York, August 12, 2011–Concern is mounting for the safety of journalist Rahmatullah Darpakhel, who was seized by a group of armed men in North Waziristan on Tuesday and remains missing, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

The men, who had their faces covered, abducted Darpakhel from a market in the town of Miranshah and drove him away, according to local media reports. The reason for the kidnapping was not immediately clear. Darpakhel, who also writes under the name Rahmatullah Dawar, reported for the Urdu daily Ausaf and Aaj TV. News reports described him as cautious in covering sensitive issues in the volatile tribal area, a center for insurgent activity. He is not known to have received threats, the reports said. A local Taliban spokesman denounced the kidnapping, according to the English-language daily The News.

“We are urgently concerned about the safety of Rahmatullah Darpakhel and urge the local authorities to vigorously investigate his disappearance,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Time is of the essence. Every hour that passes increases the risk for Darpakhel.”

President Ali Asif Zardari met with a CPJ delegation on May 3 and pledged that he would address Pakistan’s appalling record for unprosecuted murders. Yet lethal violence against the press continues. Senior Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad disappeared in May and was found dead with signs that he’d been tortured.

Local reporters are increasingly reaching out to CPJ for help after threats and intimidation from many quarters.