Geo News producer returned after 24 hours missing

7th June 2023
The Public Media Alliance is concerned about escalating attacks on journalists in Pakistan. A recent series of abductions is an alarming cause for press freedom. 
City of Lahore, Pakistan.
City of Lahore, Pakistan.

A staff member for Geo News went missing after he was abducted from his house and then subsequently returned 24 hours later, in a sign of ongoing threats to journalists in Pakistan.

Since 9 May, the arrest and then release of Pakistan’s Former Prime Minister Pakistan and Chair of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), Imran Khan, journalists in Pakistan have been still facing harassment, abduction, and arrests.

Zubair Anjum, an executive producer at Geo News is the latest who got abducted from his home on 6 June. It is still unknown who was involved in his abduction. While some of the men were dressed in police uniforms – and according to neighbours, some arrived in police vehicles – the senior superintendent of the police had no information about the arrest, and said no police unit were involved.

Read more: Pakistan radio station set alight

According to the IFJ South Asia Press freedom report 2022-2023, from May 2022 to April 2023 – along with many human rights and media violations – 24 journalists were arrested by unknown actors before being released.

There has been a spate of violence towards journalists as a result of Mr. Khan’s arrest and subsequent release in May. During the protests the Peshawar building belonging to Radio Pakistan was set alight by anti-government protestors. Journalists were also attacked by pro-Imran Khan supporters, according to RSF.

The news anchor, Imran Riaz Khan, meanwhile, was arrested on 11 May, by the police from Sialkot airport and then went missing. His whereabouts are still currently unknown. Mr. Khan released a video message before his arrest that mentioned the threat to his life and his plans to leave the country on the day of arrest.

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Media watchdog Reporter without Borders (RSF) said they fear for the life of Imran Riaz Khan who has been missing till now. One of RSF’s representatives, Daniel Bastard, said, “clearly Pakistan military intelligence agencies abducted Imran Riaz”.

However, this situation is not uncommon for journalists in Pakistan who have been facing threats. Last year, the award-winning investigative journalist Arshad Shareef last year fled the county to Kenya fearing for his life. He was killed by Kenyan police in an alleged case of mistaken identity. Many believe, however, he was killed intentionally.

While the country is on the edge of a political crisis and an uneven balance of power, prominent journalists’ disappearances are a way to silence others.

The Public Media Alliance condemns journalist’s arrests as it violates the fundamental principle of free media. We are pleased to see the return of Mr. Anjum, the Geo News producer, but the manner of his abduction – and the fact we know nothing of the perpetrators – is a cause of great alarm. No government or nation can thrive without accountability, free access to information, and the right to speak. Journalists need to be protected in their search for truth and to serve as an independent monitor of power.