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Pakistan 31 December 2003

The authorities deny holding journalist Khawar Mehdi Rizvi as he begins a third week in secret confinement

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) has voiced dismay at a "state lie" told to High Court judges in Karachi by a ranking official of the Federal Intelligence Authority (FIA) who denied it was holding journalist Khawar Mehdi Rizvi.

(JPEG) The Pakistani journalist, who was working with two French journalists from the weekly L’Express, Marc Epstein and Jean-Paul Guilloteau, is being regularly shown on public PTV television as he begins his third week in detention at the hands of the security services.

Reporters Without Borders is distressed by this State lie which involves exhibiting on television a journalist who is being held in secret confinement while at the same time denying to judges that he is imprisoned. The international press freedom organisation has renewed its appeal to the Pakistani government to release the Pakistani journalist and to allow the French journalists to return home.

The 30 December denial by the FIA official before the Sindh High court that it was holding Rizvi followed the lodging of a habeas corpus petition by Rizvi’s family lawyer, Abid Saqi, in a bid to end his secret detention. The judges, who said they were not satisfied with the reply from the authorities, ordered the FIA’s national director to appear in court on 13 January to explain the official reasons for holding Rizvi.

Rizvi, a freelance journalist who regularly works with foreign journalists, has appeared at least three times now in reports on PTV state television. The channel has also broadcast accounts by people aiming to prove that the three journalists had put together a faked report in Baluchistan (the southern border area with Afghanistan).

The two French journalists Marc Epstein and Jean-Paul Guilloteau remain under house arrest in a Karachi hotel after being released on bail on 24 December. They are awaiting a verdict that is expected at the latest on 10 January.

The three journalists were arrested on 16 December in Karachi after they had just finished a report on Taliban groups at the border with Afghanistan. The Pakistani authorities have charged the two French journalists with travelling to the Quetta region without permission.

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