Journalist detained in US ‘for seeking asylum’
WASHINGTON: Pakistani journalist Rahman Bunairee was detained because he applied for political asylum upon his arrival at the Dulles International Airport in Washington, official sources told Dawn.
Mr Bunairee works for Voice of America, a US government media outlet, and the Khyber TV, a popular Pakistani channel.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials detained Mr Bunairee, 33, on Sunday afternoon, soon after he declared his intention to seek asylum.
The sources said this was the standard procedure as all those who sought asylum at a port of entry were taken into custody. They are later released on bail to face legal proceedings which lead either to the acceptance of their request or deportation.
Earlier, spokeswoman for the immigration agency, Kelly Nantel, said she could not say why Mr Bunairee was detained because of confidentiality laws.
Officials at Voice of America also refused to offer details except saying that they were “extremely concerned” about what happened to Mr Bunairee.
Meanwhile, the US Committee to Protect Journalist strongly condemned Mr Bunairee’s detention and urged authorities to release him immediately.
“Rahman Bunairee was targeted by Islamist militants for his reporting on the conflict in Pakistan, an area of great strategic interest to the United States,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia programme coordinator. “His employer arranged to bring him to Washington so that he could continue his journalism in relative safety. US authorities must explain why they are holding a journalist with a valid US visa and release him immediately.”
Mr Dietz, who met Mr Bunairee in Pakistan last month, said the journalist was coming to the United States to take a one-year position with Voice of America and had a valid US visa.
Mr Dietz said he had no information about any application for political asylum.
Mr Bunairee is based in Karachi, but he is originally from the Buner district where the Taliban and other militant groups are active.