New York, July 27, 2015–Unidentified armed men in Pakistan abducted the Karachi bureau chief of the TV channel Geo News on Saturday and beat and robbed him before releasing him, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Faheem Siddiqui’s abduction and calls on Pakistani authorities to ensure the assailants are held to justice.
“Pakistani authorities should guarantee Faheem Siddiqui’s safety and ensure journalists in the country are able to do their work free of fear, intimidation, and violence,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz. “This most recent attack on the staff of Geo News should be swiftly and efficiently investigated and all perpetrators held to account.”
The assailants, who were dressed in police uniforms and plainclothes and had Kalashnikov rifles, forced Siddiqui to pull over as the bureau chief was driving to work, according to news reports citing Siddiqui. The journalist said the car looked like a police van so he thought he was being stopped for a routine security check. He said the assailants slapped him, then blindfolded him and drove him to an undisclosed location, while they continued to beat him. Siddiqui was left a half-hour later in a deserted area in the Manghopir neighborhood of Karachi, according to Dawn, one of the most widely read English-language dailies in the country.
According to news reports, the assailants seized Siddiqui’s three mobile phones, his licensed pistol, and documents. The journalist also said that the men directed abusive language toward Geo.
Police told Geo News that an investigation had been launched. News reports cited one police official as saying that the assailants were not police officers, and that the type of car the assailants were driving was no longer used by police. Siddiqui told Geo News that the vehicle driven by his attackers was a different shade of color from those used by the police.
The motive behind the attack remains unclear. Siddiqui said he had not received any threats recently, according to news reports.
Geo News has come under significant pressure in recent years. In April 2014, unidentified gunmen shot at the car of Hamid Mir, a prominent anchor for the channel. Mir was badly injured. Geo News staffers have frequently come under attack, and its outlets continue to face financial and legal pressure from authorities after cable operators were directed to not carry its channels and advertisers pressured to pull their funding.
- For data and analysis on Pakistan, visit CPJ’s Pakistan page.