- A Pakistani television journalist who disappeared after being arrested more than four months ago has been released and returned home, according to his colleagues and police.
- His arrest came shortly after he shared a video message expressing concerns about his reduced freedom to exercise his journalistic duties and his intention to leave the country to continue his professional work.
- Pakistan’s security services are notorious for detaining people without bringing them before the courts as required by law.
A prominent Pakistani television journalist who went missing after his arrest more than four months ago was released on Monday and returned home, police and his colleagues said.
It was widely believed that security agencies had detained Imran Riaz Khan, who is known for his public support of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan. The two men are not related.
Imran Riaz Khan was arrested at an airport in the city of Sialkot in Punjab province in May as he tried to leave Pakistan. The arrest followed him sharing a video saying that the space to do his work was shrinking and that he was leaving the country to continue his professional work.
His relatives said after his arrest that they were unable to determine his whereabouts and feared he had been kidnapped. Pakistan’s security services are notorious for detaining people without bringing them before the courts as required by law.
Police in Sialkot announced on Monday on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Khan had been “safely recovered” and was “now with his family”. They did not provide further details.
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Hamid Mir, another prominent television journalist, confirmed that Khan reached his home in Lahore. Khan’s lawyer, Mian Ali Ashfaq, also confirmed his client’s freedom on social media, but did not say where he was.
No one has claimed responsibility for Khan’s abduction. International media watchdog Reporters Without Borders and Pakistan’s journalism community had called for his release.
Khan has more than 5 million followers on X and is particularly popular among supporters of the former prime minister who was ousted in a no-confidence vote in April 2022 and is now the country’s leading opposition.
The former prime minister was arrested in August on corruption charges and sentenced to three years in prison, which was later suspended, although he remains in Attock prison in the eastern province of Punjab.
However, a court in Islamabad asked authorities on Monday to transfer him to Adiyala jail in Rawalpindi garrison city, where there are better facilities for high-ranking officials and politicians. It was not immediately clear when he would be transferred.
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Before his arrest, the former prime minister had campaigned for the release of the TV journalist, who had written extensively and produced TV shows in support of Imran Khan before he disappeared.
Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf party welcomed the journalist’s release.
Last Thursday, Federal Investigation Agency agents arrested an Islamabad-based TV host, Khalid Jamil, who is known for criticizing the authorities, on charges of spreading false information about state institutions on social media.
Pakistan has long been an unsafe country for journalists. In 2020, it ranked ninth in the Committee to Protect Journalists’ annual Global Impunity Index, which ranks countries where journalists are harassed and killed without accountability.
In recent years, activists and journalists have come under increasing attack from the government and security establishment, limiting the space for a free press, criticism and dissent.