New York, September 29, 2016– The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned the kidnapping of Abid Abdullah, executive director of the Jang media group, and called on Pakistani authorities to ensure the safety of journalists who the kidnappers explicitly threatened.
A group of unidentified gunmen intercepted Abdullah’s car in the northwestern city of Peshawar in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province early yesterday morning as Abdullah and his driver, Zafar Hussain, departed for a hotel after a visit to the local printer of the daily Jang, the country’s largest circulation newspaper. The gunmen fled with Abdullah in their vehicle. They also seized the mobile phones belong to Abdullah and Hussain, according to news reports.
The kidnappers told Abdullah and Hussain that the media executive was their “guest” and said they would also make three prominent journalists of the media group — Shahzeb Khanzada, Hamid Mir and Najam Sethi — their “guests” soon, according to the Pakistan Press Foundation.
“The kidnapping of Abid Abdullah is the latest illustration of the dangerous situation facing journalists and news media personnel in the conflict-mired northwestern regions of Pakistan,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler from Washington. “We urge Pakistani authorities to do everything in their power to ensure the safe rescue of Abdullah and the security of Shahzeb Khanzada, Hamid Mir, and Najam Sethi.”
Najam Sethi, a senior journalist and former government official in Pakistan, was previously honored with an International Press Freedom Award from CPJ. Hamid Mir, a prominent anchor for Geo News in Pakistan, a Jang Group affiliate, survived an assassination attempt in 2014 for which no one was prosecuted. Shahzeb Khanzada hosts a current affairs talk show on Geo News.
Senior officials in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa said they were investigating the case and working to recover Abdullah, according to Pakistani news outlets.
The Jang Group has been outspoken in criticizing the military and political establishment as well as militants in Pakistan, according to reports. In addition to the Urdu-language daily Jang newspaper, the group also publishes the English-language daily newspaper The News and is affiliated with Geo News, a major broadcaster with Urdu and English-language operations.