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Journalist escapes abduction attempt


Taha Siddiqui
Taha Siddiqui

ISLAMABAD: A journalist narrowly escaped an abduction attempt in broad daylight on the busy Islamabad Expressway, but local police have not yet registered an FIR.

Taha Siddiqui, 33, who works for several international media outlets, was on his way to the airport on Wednesday morning when the cab carrying him was intercepted by armed men in two vehicles.

Addressing a press conference at the National Press Club on Wednesday night, Mr Siddiqui narrated how he managed to evade his would-be abductors — who beat him up and threatened to shoot him — by running into oncoming traffic.

“In the confusion of the morning rush hour, he managed to evade his captors and flag down two separate vehicles, which eventually dropped him to a nearby taxi stand,” a statement released after the presser said.

From there, he made his way to the nearby Khanna police station, where officials escorted him to the Koral police station, since the attack took place within the latter’s jurisdiction.

In his application to police, Mr Siddiqui said that at least four persons, armed with AK-47s and pistols and in plain clothes, tried to drag him out of the car, while screaming in English, “What do you think of yourself?”

The journalist, who is a correspondent for the Paris-based France24 and World Is One News, said his would-be abductors managed to deprive him of all his belongings, including his mobile phone, passport, laptop and other technical equipment, which was a direct attack on his livelihood.

Flanked by representatives of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ), Mr Siddiqui told the press conference that while he had no enmity with anyone, he had been receiving threats from state actors regarding his journalistic work and social media activity.

An outspoken critic of human rights violations and abuse of power by the state, Mr Siddiqui won France’s highest journalism honour — the Albert Londres prize — in 2014 for his documentary on the polio crisis afflicting Pakistan and Afghanistan.

He recalled that last summer, his name appeared on a ‘list’ of individuals critical of the military that circulated on social media, adding that he was also harassed and summoned by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to “explain his journalistic work and social media activity”.

In a statement, Mr Siddiqui, PFUJ, RIUJ and the entire journalistic community called on the interior minister and the police to help bring those who would threaten and attack journalists in broad daylight to justice, and sought the recovery of his professional equipment. They also demanded that an FIR be registered as soon as possible.

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2018