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Pakistan 27 April 2004

Afghan journalist working for Newsweek secretly detained for six days

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) has called on the Pakistani government to provide early information about Afghan journalist Sami Yousafzai, held secretly by Pakistani security forces since 21 April.

He was arrested in the tribal areas where he was traveling with American reporter Eliza Griswold, who was later expelled from the country. Their driver, Mohamad Salim, was also reported missing.

The international press freedom organisation called for their immediate release, if they were arrested simply for reporting in Pakistani tribal areas. It said illtreatment meted out by security forces to journalist Khawar Mehdi Rizvi during his recent detention in connection with similar reporting, made it fear the worst for Yousafzai and his driver.

On 21 April, Griswold, a freelance US reporter, Yousafzai, stringer for the US magazine Newsweek, and their driver were arrested at a checkpoint in Bakhakhel near Bannu as they tried to enter North Waziristan.

The American journalist was wearing a burka to avoid being identified. Griswold was expelled to the United States within a few days but Yousafzai and his driver are still being secretly held.

Yousafzai’s family, who live in Peshawar, alerted Newsweek, to which he contributes regularly on Afghanistan. He lived in Peshawar for many years before returning to Kabul after the fall of the Taliban. His by-lined articles on Afghanistan have appeared in the magazine.

Griswold did not have the special permission demanded by the Pakistani authorities since the start of the Pakistani military offensive against armed Taliban and al-Qaeda groups in the Wana area of South Waziristan.

No foreign journalist has been able to travel with permission to the region. However dozens of journalists from the tribal areas and Pakistani reporters have been able to work there freely.

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