Senior journalist Matiullah Jan abducted in broad daylight and released after twelve hours
On July 21, senior Pakistani journalist Matiullah Jan was abducted from the country’s capital Islamabad. Twelve hours later, Jan was released, however, there has been no explanation provided for his abduction.
According to family sources Jan was released by unidentified persons in a deserted area in Fateh Jung, outside the capital. Press reports added that he was okay and had not been tortured. On July 22 Jan confirmed that he was home “safe and sound”. He thanked those who had made it possible.
Pakistan Press Foundation (PFF), which expressed concern about his abduction, welcomed the news about the recovery of the senior journalist unharmed. There is however, a need to ensure that such attacks on journalists are not carried out with impunity. While Jan has been recovered, there remains no clarity on who was behind this attack on press freedom and what measures will be taken to ensure such tactics of intimidation and censorship do not continue. With CCTV footage appearing to show the abduction of the senior journalist, it is imperative that authorities in the country ensure that those behind such acts are held to account.
Jan currently operates his own channel on YouTube “MJtv”. Prior to this, amongst other domestic and foreign news outlets, he has worked as a special correspondent and anchor for Waqt TV and as an anchor and deputy bureau chief for DawnNews TV. He also wrote columns for daily The Nation and for Urdu-language daily Nawa-i-Waqt.
Shortly after initial reports about Jan going missing circulated, the journalist’s son posted an update from his father’s Twitter account confirming that he had been abducted from the heart of the capital [Islamabad]. “I demand he be found and the agencies behind it immediately be held responsible. God keep him safe,” he added.
After Jan went missing, CCTV footage that appeared to show the moments before he went missing were circulated on social media.
According to Dawn.com, Jan’s wife, Kaneez Sughra, said his car was found parked outside a school in Islamabad’s Sector G-6. One of his mobile phones was inside the car. She also told AFP that there were “more than five people — some in civilian clothes, others in black uniforms — who forcibly picked up my husband”.
Security footage captured by the school where Sughra teaches showed several men forcing Jan into a sedan outside the main gate. The footage showed Jan tossing a mobile phone over the school fence, and a school security guard handing it back to a man in uniform.
Speaking to Voice of America, Sughra said Jan had recently received threats “but told her not to worry about them”.
Rights groups, the media fraternity, civil society and politicians from various political parties all expressed concern about the abduction of the journalist.
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz said that it was the government’s responsibility to recover Jan. Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said that she had spoken to the Inspector General of Islamabad about the abduction.
A criminal complaining (First Information Report) had been registered against unidentified persons by Jan’s brother Shahid Akbar Abbasi. A habeas corpus petition was also filed before the Islamabad High Court.
The Supreme Court, the top court in Pakistan, has taken notice of the abduction and has asked the Islamabad police chief for a report on the incident in two weeks.
During a hearing of a habeas corpus petition regarding Jan’s abduction, Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah was quoted as saying: “Someone has the nerve to do such a thing in police uniforms […] What impression will the public get that people are roaming around freely
in police uniforms.” According to the report, Minallah said that this incident would become a “test case” for the police.