Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about Munir Mengal, the head of Baloch Voice, a Baluchi-language TV station based in the United Arab Emirates, who has been missing since he arrived in the southern city of Karachi on a flight from Bahrain on 7 April. His family thinks Pakistani military intelligence officers arrested him at the airport.
The press freedom organisation called on the federal and Sindh province authorities to use all necessary means to obtain Mengal’s release and said it would be regrettable if it turned out to be true that the intelligence agencies were again involved in the kidnapping of journalists.
“It cannot in itself be considered a crime to launch a TV station for the 10 million Baluchis in Pakistan and other parts of the world,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We call for Mengal’s release and an end to the harassment of those in charge of Baloch Voice.”
The world’s first Baluchi-language TV station, Baloch Voice is due to begin broadcasting by satellite in July. As well as news, it plans to carry films, sport and entertainment programmes in Baluchi, Brahui, English and Arabic.
Mengal’s sister, who lives in Pakistan, said that he was arrested by intelligence agents inside Karachi international airport and that he was being subjected to considerable pressure. “He has no links with any political parties,” she stressed. Karachi is the largest city in Sindh province and the business capital of Pakistan.
Karachi-based journalists said they thought the military intelligence agencies were trying to discover the origin of Baloch Voice’s funding. “In view of the extreme tension prevailing in Baluchistan, the army is wary about the launch of this new station and must suspect foreign financing,” a journalist with a national daily said on condition of anonymity.
Hayatullah Khan, a journalist with the Urdu-language daily Ausaf and photographer for the European Press Photo Agency (EPA), has been missing since 5 December 2005.