Pak authorities infringing on press rights: CPJ

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New York, Sep19: A rights body has urged Pakistani authorities not to ''interfere'' with the working of the Fourth Estate in the country. The reaction from city-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) came after a reporter of Dawn TV alleged that he was abducted and questioned in detention by government intelligence agencies.

Babar Hussain, a reporter for Dawn TV, had alleged that he was picked up from near his home in Rawalpindi on Saturday night by three men in a two-door cream-colored Pajero -- a vehicle which he claimed was mostly used by intelligence agencies, according to news reports.

Babar was driven blindfolded for up to four hours and held in a small room. He was released on Monday around 1300 hrs in a remote area. ''Pakistani authorities are again alleged to have stepped beyond their authority and interfered with a journalist doing his job,'' said Joel Simon, CPJ executive director.

''These allegations must be thoroughly investigated. Such abductions have become a pattern that keeps repeating itself in Pakistan. This time our colleague Babar Hussain was released relatively unharmed, - but too often in the past such abductions have resulted in beatings or deaths.''

Hussain told CPJ that he was not beaten, but was questioned about his background. His most recent report was about a suicide attack on an army outpost in northwestern Pakistan on Sept 13 that killed 16 commandos of an elite counterterrorism force at a high-security army camp in Tarbela.

''We had managed to reach the site of the bombing, and the police were suspicious because they did not recognize me,'' Hussain told CPJ. He had recently stared working as a field reporter after working on the news desk of 'Ausaf'.

''They held me for two days, but they did not torture or beat me. They wanted to know my family background and asked me about my knowledge of the bombing, if I had any army contacts or if I had ever travelled to India.'' CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organisation that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.

Hussain said the men did not identify themselves, but he assumes his abductors were government intelligence agents. His colleagues at Dawn advised him not to return home for awhile, he said.

A delegation from the Committee to Protect Journalists met government officials, including Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao in July 2006 to complain about uninvestigated abductions, attacks and deaths of journalists.


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