Journalist critical of government ‘abducted’ from office: employer

— Imran says Siddique Jan ‘brazenly targeted’ for giving coverage to PTI

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad police have “abducted” Siddique Jan, the bureau chief of Bol News TV station, from his office in the capital and transported him in a private vehicle to a secret location, his employer said early Tuesday.

According to Bol News, which cited a display caught on CCTV footage, a group of 25-30 men descended upon Jan, who is fiercely critical of the government of Shehbaz Sharif, forcibly removing him from his location in a car.

However, the Ramna police station in Islamabad has denied taking him into custody, leaving his whereabouts currently unknown.

These events come amid fears expressed by Jan himself, who had previously voiced concerns that law enforcement agencies may arrest him at the behest of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party.

Jan, who was accused by the cybercrime wing of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) of inciting people on social media, challenged a notice served by the agency in the Islamabad High Court (IHC). He said he received no prior warning and was prepared to face the allegations in court.

The court restrained the FIA and Islamabad police from harassing Jan, with Chief Justice Aamer Farooq hearing the case and the journalist’s lawyer seeking details of the cases against him before protective bail was granted.

Quoting a police officer, Dawn reported it is probable that Jan will face charges as directed by a “senior official.”

An outpouring of support on social media followed the event, with users taking to the platform to denounce the journalist’s detention and call for his immediate release.

The hashtag #ReleaseSiddiqueJan quickly emerged as a top trend on Twitter, as users criticised the government for violating human rights and suppressing freedom of speech in the country.


The egregious episode comes days after Pakistan’s electronic media regulator banned Bol News for live coverage of a violent police crackdown on Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) workers in the capital.

Last week, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) directed all news channels to stop live coverage from outside a court when former prime minister Imran Khan appeared before a judge in the Toshakhana case.

However, defiant Bol News continued its live broadcast, prompting the regulator to direct cable operators to stop its transmission. PEMRA claimed the coverage of public outrage against law enforcers created panic among police ranks.

Press freedom advocacy groups and members of the opposition PTI stood shoulder to shoulder and defended Bol News. Khan, the former prime minister, noted the journalist was “brazenly targeted” simply for giving coverage to his party.

“Imran Riaz, Jameel Farooqui, Sabir Shakir, Sami Ibrahim, Chaudhry Ghulam Hussain, and Moeed Pirzada [journalists who were considered sympathetic to Khan were] all victimised,” by the government, he tweeted.

Speaking to the station, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, vice chairman of the party, called the arrest an attempt to “put pressure on the media and journalists.”

A bevvy of working TV-news correspondents from a range of media outlets expressed surprise and outrage.

Journalist Ahmad Noarani said the “arrest of another senior journalist Siddique Jan in Pakistan by a fascist government of PML-N [sic] is highly condemnable.” He also urged the “international press freedom bodies and free speech organisations” to “take notice of this situation.”

“It is worth noting that since the appointment of Fahad Hussain [himself a journalist] as an advisor [to the prime minister] the press in Pakistan has endured a tumultuous period, evocative of the country’s authoritarian past. But Hussain still holds his post,” observed Iman Riaz Khan, another journalist who has been taken off-air by at least three TV stations since Sharif took oath in April of last year.


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