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Journalist Taha Siddiqui beaten by '10-12 armed men', escapes 'attempted abduction'

Updated January 10, 2018

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Journalist Taha Siddiqui at a police station after being beaten by armed men.─Photo courtesy: Twitter
Journalist Taha Siddiqui at a police station after being beaten by armed men.─Photo courtesy: Twitter

Islamabad Police on Wednesday began investigating an "attempt by 10-12 armed men" to abduct journalist Taha Siddiqui.

Siddiqui was "beaten [and] threatened with death", said journalist Asad Hashim in a tweet.

Hashim, who accompanied Siddiqui to Koral police station, added that Siddiqui's belongings were also taken.

Siddiqui was piled into a car by the armed men but managed to escape by jumping out of the moving vehicle.

"He only escaped by running through oncoming traffic," Hashim said in another tweet.

Superintendent Police Dr Mustafa Tanveer confirmed that Siddiqui, who is the Pakistan bureau chief at World Is One News, approached police soon after the incident.

Siddiqui posted a message via journalist Cyril Almeida's Twitter account, recounting the details of the kidnapping attempt. He started the tweet by identifying himself and clarifying that he was using Almeida's account.

Siddiqui went on to say: "I was on my way to [the] airport today at 8:20 am when 10-12 armed men stopped my cab [and] forcibly tried to abduct me." Speaking to DawnNews, SP Tanveer reiterated that Siddiqui was in a private taxi when he was stopped by armed men.

In his post, Siddiqui further said that he had managed to escape the kidnapping attempt and that he was "safe and with the police now."

"Looking for support in any way possible," Siddiqui added, ending his tweet with the hashtag #StopEnforcedDisappearances.

The attacks on Taha Siddiqui and other Pakistani journalists must be immediately and effectively investigated by the authorities, said Amnesty International in a press release.

“Journalists like Taha Siddiqui have a right to carry out their work freely and without fear," Deputy South Asia Director at Amnesty International Omar Waraich said while adding that journalism is not a crime, but attacking journalists is.

"These crimes must be immediately and effectively investigated. All journalists should be provided the protection they require. And there must be a clear and unequivocal commitment by the Pakistani authorities to end impunity for attacks on journalists,” Waraich said.

In May last year, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had issued a notice to Siddiqui, known for posting comments on social media against the military, and asked him to appear before its counterterrorism wing.

Siddiqui had filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court alleging that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had harassed him over the phone.

In his petition, Siddiqui had alleged that a man named Noman Bodla, who identified himself as a member of the Counter Terrorism Department of the FIA, had called him and attempted to pressure him into appearing for an 'interrogation' at the FIA headquarters.

He had added in his petition that Siddiqui mentioned that he "was reluctant to go to the FIA Headquarters on the basis that there have been several reports in the press where such phone calls are made and once the person who is to be interrogated sets out to the FIA Headquarters, he is either picked up and disappeared or detained illegally."

On May 24, the IHC had asked the FIA to stop harassing the journalist.

Messages of support

Shortly after Siddiqui's posted his message on Twitter, messages of support from journalists started pouring in.

"Journalist community must condemn the kidnapping attempt of TahaSSiddiqui with full unity no compromise on harassment of media," journalist Hamid Mir wrote.

"With you Taha Siddiqui in solidarity. All the support," Owais Tohid wrote in a tweet. "We condemn harassment, intimidation& death threats against Taha Siddiqui. All the support," he added.

"Taha Siddiqui, one of Islamabad's finest journalists, was attempted abducted today. A court last year ordered the federal investigation agency to stop harassing him. Stay strong, Taha," Sune Engel Rasmussen, a journalist with Wall Street Journal, wrote.

"What journalist Taha Siddiqi has experienced needs to be condemned by not only all journalists but everyone ─ you should not have to fear for your life and personal safety for doing your job," Omar Qureshi wrote.

Incidents of enforced disappearances have been reported with alarming frequency in Pakistan.

In November, the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, placed Pakistan among the most dangerous countries for journalists.

Pakistan was ranked 139th out of 180 countries.