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Pakistan 5 May 2004

Newsweek journalist Sami Yousafzai marks two weeks in secret detention

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) has said it is extremely concerned about the fate of Newsweek journalist Sami Yousafzai about whom the Pakistani authorities refuse to give any information either about the reasons or place of his detention.

Nothing has been heard of the Afghan journalist, working for the US magazine, since his arrest two weeks ago on 21 April. He could be held by military secret services in Peshawar.

(JPEG) The international press freedom organisation called on the Pakistan government to respect its own law and to end this secret detention. It was shocking that once against the Pakistan government was practising double standards, it said. The US freelance journalist Eliza Griswold, who was travelling with Yousafzai, was quickly deported while the local journalist was imprisoned and threatened with charges.

Despite repeated requests from Newsweek and Pakistani and international journalists, the authorities in Islamabad have refused to provide information about Yousafzai or his driver Mohamed Salim.

An official, who requested anonymity, told Agence France-Presse that the journalist was being "interrogated by the security services" and that he could be "charged with facilitating and accompanying a foreigner to an unauthorised area". He was arrested with his American colleague in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Yousafzai’s lived in Peshawar for many years before returning to Kabul after the fall of the Taliban. His by-lined articles on Afghanistan have appeared in the magazine.

Griswold did not have the special permission demanded by the Pakistani authorities since the start of the Pakistani military offensive against armed Taliban and al-Qaeda groups in the Wana area of South Waziristan.

No foreign journalist has been able to travel with permission to the region. However dozens of journalists from the tribal areas and Pakistani reporters have been able to work there freely.

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