A prominent Pakistani television journalist known for his public support of former Prime Minister Imran Khan has been missing for two days, raising fears for his safety.
Sami Abraham’s family and Karachi-based independent BOL television, where he works, said on Thursday that he had been abducted.
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Abraham’s disappearance was first announced in a police tweet late on Wednesday, hours after he went missing. In a news announcement the same day, BOL TV said Abraham was taken by unidentified men.
Abraham has long publicly opposed the government of Khan’s successor, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, and is a critic of Pakistan’s powerful military, which has directly ruled the country for nearly half of its 75 years of independence.
Abraham’s brother, Ali Raza, filed a police complaint that said eight people in four vehicles intercepted his brother’s car on his way back home from work in the capital, Islamabad, and took him away. His driver was unharmed.
Abraham’s disappearance came two weeks after another pro-Khan journalist, Imran Riaz Khan, went missing. Pakistani police and intelligence agencies have denied detaining him.
In a statement late on Thursday, the Committee to Protect Journalists said it was “deeply disturbed” by the disappearance of the prominent journalists.
“Authorities must respect the rule of law and either present Abraham and Khan in court or immediately release them,” the media watchdog’s Asia programme coordinator, Beh Lih Yi, said.
#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
Pakistan’s media community and independent journalists have also demanded accountability for those behind the killing of Arshad Sharif, a prominent Pakistani TV anchor who was shot to death in Kenya in October.
The 49-year-old journalist was living in exile after he fled the country to avoid arrest in the wake of multiple cases, including sedition charges related to comments he made on his show considered offensive to the military.
Police reportedly opened fire on his vehicle in Nairobi. Kenyan authorities said they regretted the killing, calling it “a case of mistaken identity”.
The two disappearances of journalists this month followed violent protests by Imran Khan’s supporters. They clashed for days with police across Pakistan, attacking public property and military installations, angered by the former prime minister’s arrest from a courtroom in Islamabad.
The violence only subsided after Imran Khan was released two days later after the Supreme Court declared his arrest illegal.
Since the deadly protests, the government has cracked down on Imran Khan’s supporters, arresting nearly 5,000 people and planning to hold trials before military courts, which are closed to the media and other observers.
Human rights groups have condemned the secretive nature of these proceedings and expressed concerns about a lack of fair trials.
On Friday, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said at least 33 people suspected of attacking military installations have been handed over to the army for military trials.
On Friday, Imran Khan and his wife were put on a no-fly list. The government said it was also considering a ban on his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, dozens of whose members have quit in recent days in the wake of arrests and prosecutions following the protests.