2011 CPJ International Press Freedom Awardee
Umar Cheema, a reporter with Islamabad’s The News, was abducted in September 2010 by unknown assailants who stripped, beat, and photographed him in humiliating positions. Cheema’s unwillingness to stay silent about his abduction and the abuses he suffered has drawn wide attention to the nationwide issue of anti-press violence in Pakistan.
Almost immediately after he was released, Cheema went on television to tell the world of the abuses and humiliation he endured at the hands of “men in police commando uniforms.” He said his captors asked why he continued with his critical reporting–was he trying to discredit the government and bring back former President Musharraf?
In the months since his kidnapping, Cheema has been harassed and threatened for his coverage of politics, national security, and corruption. In keeping with Pakistan’s record of near-perfect impunity in the cases of hundreds of journalists threatened, abducted, and killed, Cheema’s case remains unprosecuted and unsolved. But his courage has rallied his colleagues across the nation. An editorial in the English-language daily Dawn said, “No half-hearted police measures or words of consolation from the highest offices in the land will suffice in the aftermath of the brutal treatment meted out to journalist Umar Cheema of The News. This paper’s stand is clear: the government and its intelligence agencies will be considered guilty until they can prove their innocence.”