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Pakistan 10 March 2008

Kidnappers release Azadi reporter, but two others still missing

Reporters Without Borders welcomes the release on 8 March of reporter Khalil Khosa of Azadi, a daily based in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province. Khosa had been missing for eight days, after failing to return from a news conference in Nasirabad, in the south of the province, on 29 February.

Khosa has not described the circumstances of his abduction but he said his kidnappers told him, “Don’t practise this kind of journalism again.” He also told a fellow journalist in Quetta that they were looking for a photo he took during the recent parliamentary election campaign.

His family said at the time of his disappearance that Khosa could have been abducted because of articles criticising certain Baloch nationalist parties.

Azadi is still without news of two other reporters who are believed to have been kidnapped - Hameed Baloch, who went missing on 3 March, and Javed Lehri, who went missing on 30 November 2007.

06.03.2008 - Two journalists kidnapped in Balochistan, a third missing since November

Reporters Without Borders is very worried about two journalists employed by the Urdu-language Baloch daily Azadi, Hameed Baloch and Khalil Khosa, who went missing in the province of Balochistan within three days of each other, on 29 February and 3 March, and who were probably kidnapped.

“The current deterioration in press freedom in Balochistan has become quite intolerable”, Reporters Without Borders said. “These abductions, coming on the heels of the 9 February murder of Chishti Mujahid, are part of the disastrous consequences of the fighting between government forces and Baloch separatist groups. We urge the authorities to do everything possible to protect journalists and to come to the help of those who are still missing.”

According to the Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ), Baloch was kidnapped on 3 March in Taftan, near the Iranian border. “His disappearance may be due to the security services, tribal rivalry or political parties”, BUJ president Mujeeb Ahmed told Reporters Without Borders.

Another BUJ member said : “In my view, influential tribes must be implicated, as was the case with Riaz Mengal [of the newspaper Intikhab], who we thought had been kidnapped by the security services but in fact had been kidnapped by tribal chiefs.”

Khosa has not been seen since attending a news conference in the southern Baloch town of Nasirabad on 29 February. His family thinks he may have been kidnapped because of articles criticising Baloch nationalist parties that took part in the recent parliamentary elections while other Baloch nationalist groups boycotted them.

Based in the Baloch provincial capital of Quetta, Azadi is still without news of its young reporter Javed Lehri, who has been missing since 30 November. Editor Muhammad Asif Baloch thinks he was kidnapped by the security services, who kidnapped the head of the Baloch Voice TV station, Munir Mengal, in June 2006. Mengal was eventually handed over to the police, who are still holding him despite court orders for his release.

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