Journalist Khawar Mehdi Rizvi was released from prison in Quetta on 29 March by order of the local anti-terrorist court, though he will be on bail and must still appear in court to face charges of "conspiracy" and "sedition."
He said he had not broken the law and had simply done his job as a journalist. He was greeted outside the prison by his brother, his lawyer and others journalists.
Speaking to Reporters Without Borders, he thanked everyone, especially fellow journalists, who had campaigned for his release since he was arrested in mid-December and accused of faking a report about armed Taliban activities along the Afghan border.
He said he now knew the true value of press freedom and wanted to more energetically continue his work as a journalist. All the charges against him were false, he said. He had simply wanted to tell the public the truth.
27 March 2004
Pakistani journalist Khawar Mehdi Rizvi is to be released on bail, on the order of the special anti-terrorist court in Quetta.
Reporters Without Borders welcomed the 27 March decision but called on the government to go further by dropping charges against the journalist.
The prosecutor raised no objection to the court decision. The journalist’s lawyer and his brother were attempting to find the necessary documentation and 200,000 rupees (3,000 euros) needed to secure his release on 29 March.
Rizvi however is still accused of "conspiracy" and "sedition" and he will have to attend court at each stage of the trial, although he will be allowed to live in Islamabad.
"An injustice has been corrected," said Reporters Without Borders. "A respected Pakistani journalist was imprisoned while his two French colleagues were only sentenced to a fine. Now we ask you to consider dropping the case against him", the international press freedom organisation asked in a letter to the federal interior minister.
More than 3,000 journalists and media workers already have signed a worldwide petition drawn up by a committee campaigning for his release (www.freekhawar.org).
The three journalists were arrested on 16 December 2003 in Karachi, just after completing a report on Taliban groups at the border with Afghanistan.