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Pakistan 27 September 2006

Kidnapped journalist freed after being beaten and interrogated for three days

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the kidnapping and mistreatment of journalist Saeed Sarbazi, who was released on 23 September after being beaten and interrogated for three days on suspicion of supporting the Baloch separatist movement.

“We join the Karachi Press Club and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) in condemning the use of violence against Sarbazi and the growing impunity with which certain forces are acting in Pakistan,” the press freedom organisation said.

Sarbazi said he was arrested as he was going to work on the morning of 20 September. His kidnappers covered his face, bundled him into a car and took him to an unknown location. For three days was kept blindfolded and prevented from sleeping or sitting while he was interrogated about his work, family and friends.

His abductors accused him of supporting the so-called Baloch Liberation Army (BLA). Sarbazi replied that he had just made a few phone calls as part of his work as a journalist after the BLA’s alleged leader, Akbar Bugti, was killed by Pakistani intelligence agents on 26 August. “I told them I was a journalist but they said I was a terrorist.”

His abductors finally released him after realising they had the “wrong person.” After returning home on the morning of 23 September, he was ordered to take two weeks’ rest to recover.


Another journalist goes missing in Karachi

Reporters Without Borders voiced deep concern today about the disappearance of journalist Saeed Sarbazi, 65, who has not been seen since he left home yesterday morning in Karachi. Sarbazi works for the privately-owned, English-language Business Recorder, Karachi’s only business daily.

“Yet another journalist has gone missing and yet again sources point to the intelligence agencies as being responsible,” the press freedom organisation said. “The interior minister’s promises must be translated into action at once. Like our Pakistani colleagues, we demand to know what has happened to Sarbazi.”

Sarbazi went missing after leaving home by car for the Karachi Press Club, of which he is the deputy secretary. His family have not received any word of him since then.

Sindh province interior minister Rauf Siddiqui told journalists outside the provincial assembly in Karachi that he would look into the case and would ask the police and secret services about it. Two weeks ago, Sarbazi told a friend he was being “followed by the intelligence services.” Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists secretary-general Mazhar Abbas nonetheless said nothing was certain and the circumstances of his disappearance were still unclear.

The case recalls that of Mehruddin Marri of the Sindhi-language daily Kawish, who has been missing since 27 June. The intelligence services were also suspected of kidnapping him at the time of his disappearance in Sindh province.

Four other journalists have been kidnapped in Pakistan since last December. Hayatullah Khan was found dead six months after he was abducted. Mukesh Rupeta and Sanjay Kumer were held illegally by the Pakistani intelligence services for more than three months. Munir Mengal has been missing since 7 April.

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