When it comes to press freedom and the safety of writers, Pakistan has a mixed track record. Missing journalists in Pakistan is becoming a norm nowadays.
RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index put the country at number 150, which is seven places higher than the previous year.
A well-known Pakistani TV journalist known for publicly supporting former Prime Minister Imran Khan has not been seen in two days, making people worry about his safety. On Thursday, Sami Ibrahim’s family said he had been taken. Ibrahim had been lost for a few hours before a police tweet about it late Wednesday night. Ibrahim has been openly against the government of Khan’s successor, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, for a long time. He is also against Pakistan’s powerful military, which has directly ruled the country for almost half of its 75 years of freedom.
In a statement late on Thursday, the Committee to Protect Journalists said it was “deeply disturbed” by the disappearance of the prominent journalists.
#Pakistan: Authorities must immediately reveal the whereabouts of journalists Sami Abraham and Imran Riaz Khan and stop intimidating the press as the country’s political turmoil drags on.https://t.co/DvqomcLe5W
— CPJ Asia (@CPJAsia) May 25, 2023
“Authorities must respect the rule of law and either present Ibrahim and Khan in court or immediately release them,” the media watchdog’s Asia program coordinator, Beh Lih Yi, said.
Moving ahead, a short video of Pakistani writer and political analyst Imran Riaz Khan being led out of Sialkot International Airport by a group of police officers went viral on social media about two weeks ago.
The 47-year-old journalist hasn’t been seen in public since then, and neither his family nor the police seem to know where he is.
His brother, Usman Riaz Khan, who is 32 years old, said that on May 11, the day the video was made, Imran Riaz Khan was on a plane to Oman. He had decided to leave Pakistan after police raided his home in Lahore the day before.
“My brother was able to distill political affairs in his 16-minute-long videos, and he always told the truth, that is why he was picked up,” the younger brother told Al Jazeera on Tuesday.
However, his father claimed in an official complaint filed with police that CCTV footage from the police station showed his son being “kidnapped” by “four to five masked men” after being released.
In Pakistan, a prominent pro-Imran Khan commentator has "disappeared." Imran Riaz Khan was detained by the police last week, but they say they don't have him in custody any more 🤨
— Secunder Kermani (@SecKermani) May 22, 2023
Similarly, Arshad Sharif, a writer and news reporter, had to leave Pakistan in August of last year because his life was in danger. He was assassinated in Kenya in October.
State officials have been going after people who work in the media for a long time because of what they do. Many of them have been attacked or forced out of their jobs. None of the Pakistani reporters is safe, and it is indeed a very sensitive issue.