Pakistan journalists suspect media crackdown after 2 journalists disappear News
© WikiMedia (Narih Lee)
Pakistan journalists suspect media crackdown after 2 journalists disappear

Two Pakistani journalists remain missing Saturday following a call for their release from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Thursday. Unidentified men allegedly seized the first journalist, BOL News anchor and president Sami Abraham on May 24 following the airing of several segments supporting former Prime Minister Imran Khan. The second journalist, Imran Riaz Khanalso of BOL Newshas been missing since May 11, when he was seized by Pakistani authorities at a Punjab airport.

CPJ called on Pakistani authorities to “immediately reveal the whereabouts” of the two journalists and “stop intimidating the press as the country’s political turmoil drags on.” CPJ’s Asia program coordinator Beh Lih Yi stated, “Authorities must respect the rule of law and either present Abraham and Khan in court or immediately release them.”

Abraham’s family said that unidentified men seized Abraham and took him into custody on Wednesday. Abraham was taken to an unknown location for unknown reasons. Shortly after his disappearance, Ali RazaAbraham’s brotherfiled a police complaint, stating his brother had been “abducted” in Islamabad while traveling home from his job at BOL News. Pakistani authorities stated that they would help in the search for Abraham; however, sources for Pakistani newspaper Dawn said that it was Pakistani authorities who arrested Abraham.

Abraham is a supporter of former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-insaf (PTI). Shortly before his disappearance, Abraham appeared in a series of BOL News videos voicing support and criticizing Pakistan’s current government.

Like Abraham, Imran Riaz Khan is also a PTI supporter, frequently voicing support for the former prime minister’s party on his YouTube channel. Khan has not been seen since Pakistani authorities arrested him at Sialkot International Airport on May 11. Khan’s brother, Usman Riaz Khan, told Al Jazeera that Imran had planned to board a flight to Oman to flee Pakistan after Pakistani authorities raided his house. Pakistani authorities claim to have released Khan the same day that he was arrested, telling Usman Riaz Khan that his brother had “went away with a group of unknown people.”

Two Pakistani journalists, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, said they believe that the disappearances of Abraham and Khan are part of a larger crackdown on Pakistani media. CPJ cited the arrest, attack and surveillance of Pakistani journalists covering the fallout of the recent arrest and release of the former prime minister. The events triggered nationwide protests, which landed at least 33 of Khan’s supporters in court on criminal charges.