New York, July 21, 2020 – Pakistan authorities should conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the disappearance of journalist Matiullah Jan and ensure his safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
This morning, several unidentified men intercepted Jan’s car in Islamabad’s G-6 Sector, forced him into another vehicle, and drove away, according to news reports, Abdul Razaq Jan, the journalist’s son, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview, and security footage of the abduction, which CPJ reviewed and which was shared on social media.
In the footage, about a dozen men are seen exiting at least three vehicles and forcing a man out of his car and into another car. A truck with emergency vehicle lighting is seen following the cars as they drive away. Police have not confirmed the veracity of the footage, according to those reports.
“The abduction of Matiullah Jan in broad daylight in a high security area in Islamabad is distressing, and the perpetrators must be held to account immediately,” said Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia researcher. “Pakistani authorities and intelligence services must immediately determine Matiullah Jan’s whereabouts and ensure his swift and safe release.”
Jan hosts a YouTube political commentary channel, MJtv, where he has about 67,000 followers. He formerly hosted an investigative talk show on local broadcaster Waqt TV, according to those news reports. In 2018, Jan was among the journalists the army accused of sharing anti-state remarks on social media, as CPJ documented at the time.
The journalist was scheduled to attend a hearing at Pakistan’s Supreme Court tomorrow in response to a summons for allegedly “using derogatory/contemptuous language and maligning the institution of judiciary” on Twitter, according to a court notice, which CPJ reviewed.
Last week, Jan told CPJ that he believed the case against him was retaliation for his critical commentary on Pakistan’s military and judiciary, as well as his press freedom activism. Yesterday, he confirmed to CPJ that he planned to attend tomorrow’s hearing.
In the security footage, the victim can be seen throwing his phone over a wall, which one of the abductors later retrieves. The journalist’s son said he believes his father threw the phone to try to raise alarm. He said the attack appeared professional and coordinated.
Information Minister Shibli Faraz said that Jan had been kidnapped, according to those reports.
CPJ called the Islamabad inspector-general of police for comment, but no one answered. When CPJ called the Aabpara police station, which covers the area where Jan was abducted, a representative told CPJ there was no update at the time.