'Extremely disturbing, highly condemnable': Rights groups, journalists react to Matiullah Jan's abduction

Updated 21 Jul 2020

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A journalist holds a placard during a protest against the abduction of journalist Matiullah Jan in Islamabad on Tuesday, July 21. — AFP
A journalist holds a placard during a protest against the abduction of journalist Matiullah Jan in Islamabad on Tuesday, July 21. — AFP

Human rights groups and journalists on Tuesday expressed alarm over the alleged abduction of senior journalist Matiullah Jan from Islamabad's Sector G-6 earlier in the day.

Speaking to Dawn.com, Jan’s wife said that his car was found parked outside a school in Sector G-6 of the capital with one of his mobile phones inside the vehicle.

Jan's disappearance drew the attention of rights groups and other journalists, who termed the incident as yet another attempt to silence the press in the country. Shortly after the incident occurred, several hashtags about Jan's alleged abduction started trending on Twitter.

In a statement, the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ) condemned the "abduction-like arrest" of the journalist.

"[Jan] has always been an upright and honest journalist, who always remained undeterred in calling a spade a spade," said KUJ President Ashraf Khan, calling for his release from "illegal custody".

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan demanded that the government "immediately ensure the safe recovery" of the journalist.

Amnesty International South Asia also called for authorities to "establish [Jan's] whereabouts immediately".

Journalists hold placards during a protest against the abduction of Matiullah Jan in Islamabad. — AFP
Journalists hold placards during a protest against the abduction of Matiullah Jan in Islamabad. — AFP

In a tweet, the international human rights organisation said it was "extremely concerned for the fate and well-being" of the journalist, who it said has been the subject of "physical attacks and harassment for his journalism".

Press advocacy organisation Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said it was "deeply concerned" about Jan's reported abduction. "He should be released and returned to his family at once," it tweeted.

Freedom Network expressed "concern" at reports of Jan's disappearance.

The Austrian-based International Press Institute (IPI) also joined the chorus of calls for Jan's freedom.

"We fear that Matiullah Jan's life is in danger, and immediate steps must be taken to locate him and ensure his release from his apparent kidnappers," IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said in a statement.

"Given the history of violence against journalists in Pakistan, the authorities cannot delay in seeking to protect Jan's safety."

Dawn Editor Zaffar Abbas termed the development "extremely disturbing" and "highly condemnable" and called upon editors to play their role by airing news of his disappearance.

Journalist Asma Shirazi tweeted: "What the hell? Unknown people picked up [Matiullah Jan] from Aabpara. Really unknown?"

Former Dawn editor Abbas Nasir tweeted about the journalist's disappearance, saying that "such acts of desperation will not prolong this fascist era" and prayed that Jan was well.

Anchorperson Shahzeb Khanzada too expressed concern over Jan's alleged abduction "in broad daylight", noting that "press freedom is already under attack in Pakistan".

Meanwhile, anchorperson Najam Sethi started a petition on Change.org calling for Jan's "immediate release".


Additional input from Imtiaz Ali