In a letter to Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Lt-General Moin-ud-din Haider, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières - RSF) calls for the immediate release of British journalist Amardeep Bassey of the Sunday Mercury. "Once again, a reporter of Indian origin has been arrested by the Pakistani security services on a ridiculous pretext. The accusations of spying are grotesque, and indicate discrimination against journalists of Indian origin", says Robert Ménard, Secretary-General of RSF. The organisation that defends press freedom has asked the Interior Minister to do all in his power to ensure Amardeep Bassey’s release and the regularisation of the journalist’s situation by the authorities responsible.
According to information gathered by RSF, Amardeep Bassey, a reporter on the Birmingham-based Sunday Mercury (part of the Trinity Mirror group), was arrested on 11 May 2002, at the Afghan-Pakistan border post of Torkhan (in the north-west of the country). The reporter was returning from Afghanistan accompanied by two guides from Pakistan’s tribal areas. According to the police, Amardeep Bassey was arrested and detained in Landikotal prison because he did not have an exit visa from Pakistan, although he had been in Peshawar a few days previously. RSF spoke to Dave Brooks, the editor of the Daily Mercury, who said his reporter had been in the region for some weeks. He had been invited to Kabul (Afghanistan) by the UK’s Foreign Office to cover the activities of the British peace-keeping forces. Amardeep Bassey, who has reported from Pakistan on previous occasions, decided to remain in the region and went to Peshawar. He has written articles on the reconstruction of Afghanistan and has interviewed an English man held in Peshawar for drug dealing.
Twenty-nine-year-old Amardeep Bassey was awarded last year’s prize for best investigative journalist in the Midlands for the quality of his articles.
During the war in Afghanistan, the authorities refused to grant press visas to Indian journalists. The few reporters of Indian origin were victims of discrimination. For example, Aditya Sinha, an American journalist working for the Indian daily Hindustan Times, and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, special correspondent for the Washington Post, were deported from Pakistan after being questioned by members of the secret service.