Media watchdog seeks release of journalist
ISLAMABAD, January 25 2006: An international media watchdog renewed a demand for the release of a Pakistani journalist abducted last month after reporting a US missile strike in a tribal region in northwestern Pakistan.
A government official said Tuesday January 24 the journalist may have been abducted by Islamic militants. But the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, citing Hayatullah Khan’s colleagues, said he was probably kidnapped by local authorities – which the government denies.
The CPJ also demanded an end to the harassment of journalists working in the lawless tribal regions bordering Afghanistan.
In a statement Monday, the CPJ urged Pakistani authorities to “answer inquiries about the fate” of Khan, a reporter with Urdu-language daily Ausaf.
He has been missing since December 5, reportedly abducted after he reported that a purported US missile strike killed a senior Al Qaeda figure, Hamza Rabia, in a village in North Waziristan.
Khan photographed fragments of the purported missile for the European Pressphoto Agency. It was later identified as shrapnel from a Hellfire missile fired from an unmanned warplane used by the United States, the CPJ said.
Khan’s report contradicted a claim by Pakistani authorities that Rabia died in a bomb-making explosion near Mir Ali, the town where Khan was abducted.
“Inquiries from relatives, local journalist associations, CPJ, and other international groups, all seeking information about Khan’s whereabouts, have yielded nothing,” the statement said.
In recent years, Khan received numerous threats from security forces, Taliban members, and local tribesmen because of his reporting, CPJ said. The provincial government on Tuesday claimed Khan was likely abducted by “local Taliban,” meaning Islamic militants sympathising with the former hard-line regime in Afghanistan that was ousted by US-led forces in late 2001.
“He may have been picked up by local Taliban and handed over to the ‘international’ Taliban,” said Shah Zaman Khan, a government spokesman for the tribal regions. Khan said the governor of the North West Frontier Province, who supervises the tribal regions, assured a delegation from the Tribal Union of Journalists that government authorities are not holding Khan.
He said 10 people, suspected of involvement in Khan’s abduction, are still being detained for questioning.
Source: Daily Times