KARACHI: Ali Imran Syed, senior Geo News reporter, who went missing on Friday evening in district east of Karachi, returned home almost after a day long-ordeal on Saturday evening.
Imran, a resident of Block 8-A, Gulistan-e-Jauhar, went missing on Friday between 7pm and 8pm to when he had gone to bakery but did not return home. The family had also informed that the journalist’s car was parked outside his residence while his cell phone was also at the home.
It may be noted here that Ali Imran disappeared a day after he broadcasted a CCTV footage on Geo News related to the arrest of the Pakistan Muslim-League-Nawaz’s leader Captain Safdar Awan from a hotel in Karachi. His family then approached the police on Friday night and got a kidnapping case registered at the Sacchal Police Station on behalf of the journalist’s elder brother, Syed Talib Abbas Rizvi. Rizvi stated that his brother was kidnapped by unidentified persons for unknown reasons. Senior police officials of the Karachi police were also informed about his mysterious missing.
Following the strong journalists’ protests across the country where the entire journalist, media, civil society and human rights organizations and scores of journalists participated, Ali returned to his mother’s home after over a day-long ordeal.
Police said that though the journalist has been returned but the investigation are underway and they are still trying to obtain the CCTV footage and record the journalist’s statement to probe further.
Earlier, the Criminal Investigation Agency’s chief DIG Arif Hanif, who has the additional charge of the Additional IG Karachi, along with Anti-Violent Crime Cell chief visited the reporter’s residence and assured the family of their full cooperation to recover the journalist safely. The senior police officials also inspected the crime scene and the general area from where the journalist had gone missing and also conducted inquiries.
Meanwhile, across the country large number of journalists took part in a protest against the disappearance Ali Imran Syed’s disappearance and demanded the authorities to immediately release him without any harm.
In Karachi, members of Karachi Press Club, three factions of the Karachi Union of Journalists and Crime Reporters Associations, newsmen working with various media outlets, members of the civil society and human rights organisations attended the protest to express their serious concerns over his disappearance and demanded the government to ensure his earliest recovery.
Journalist bodies’ leaders, including Imtiaz Khan Faran, Fahim Siddiqui, Ahmed Malik, Aajiz Jamali, and Tariq Abul Hasan, termed Syed’s disappearance as an attack on the freedom of expression. They said such frequent incidents of missing, kidnapping, and murder of journalists has become a norm in the country to suppress the voices of dissent for controlling media, imposing censorship and denying freedom of speech and expression in the country.
Other speakers described Syed as a non-controversial reporter whose last story before disappearance was related to the arrest of PML-N leader Capt (retd) Mohammad Safdar from a Karachi hotel whose CCTV footage was broadcast by the Geo News channel.
The speakers called on all the media houses and journalist bodies to come together and forge unity for defending press freedom in the country. The civil society and human rights activists also took part in the protest to express solidarity with the journalists and demanded the authorities to ensure Ali Imran’s safe return.
In Rawalpindi, Journalist community staged protest at the call of PFUJ for the release of Karachi-based Geo News reporter and warned of an unending protest for the protection journalists.
The Pakistan Federal Union Journalist in collaboration with the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists and other journalist unions staged a protest for the release of Ali Imran Syed by “unknown persons who are known to all” and asked the federal and provincial governments to order high level judicial probe into such abductions which are the rise for the last two years. A protest rally held at the Islamabad National Press Club for the release of Ali Imran Syed was addressed by office bearers of PFUJ and RIUJ, senior journalists and anchors who demanded his immediate release. They said his disappearance has created a stir amongst the entire journalist community in the country.
Nasir Zaidi, Secretary General PFUJ, in his speech warned the abductors and government that “now the struggle would continue till the achievement of freedom of press and protection of journalists and the media workers,” he said. He said 49 journalist were booked by FIA and one chief editor Mir Shakeel ur Rehman is behind the bars without any formal registered case, which is unprecedented and unacceptable.
Senior journalist Hamid Mir said that voice of the journalists cannot be silenced by such cowardly methods. “The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is the main hurdle in the passage of journalists protection bill. He strongly demanded the safe return of Ali Imran Syed.
The former PFUJ President Afzal Butt said abductions, enforced disappearance of journalists and unannounced censorship is taking us towards the point of no return. Senator Tahir Bizenjo of the National Party said “It is unfortunate that today press freedom and freedom of speech and expression are being denied and Imran khan is following fascism which is extremely damaging for the country.”
Demanding immediate release of Ali Imran Syed, the RIUJ President Amir Sajad Sayed and Secretary Asif Ali Bhatti said the PTI government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan is harassing the journalists, but we will not be deterred by such tactics and we remain committed to media freedom. Senior Journalists Fouzia Shahid, Tariq Virik, Izhar Niazi, and Farhat Abbasi also addressed the protest rally and demanded immediate release of Syed.
In Karachi, the legal fraternity also expressed concern over enforced disappearance of Geo TV reporter and the NAB cases against Mir Shakeel ur Rehman.
Similarly, Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, and other leaders including Raza Mian Raza Rabbani and Sherry Rehman, while expressing their serious concern on the disappearance of senior journalist of Geo News Ali Imran Syed, have termed such actions as an attack on the freedom of expression.
“The suppression of voices must stop now,” he said in a statement while expressing concerns on disappearance of senior journalist. Bilawal said that incidents like the disappearance of journalists was creating a negative image of Pakistan around the world. He said the media was passing through a critical era in the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Former Senate chairman and senior leader of the PPP Mian Raza Rabbani said the abduction of Ali Imran Syed is condemned in the strongest terms. “It is feared that Ali Imran Syed has gone missing during the course of his journalistic duties,” he said. He said this attack on the freedom of the press is violation of Articles 19 and 19A of the Constitution of 1973, which guarantees the right of freedom of expression. “The government should ensure his speedy recovery,” he said.
Parliamentary leader of the PPP in the Senate Senator Sherry Rehman strongly condemned Ali Imran's abduction and said this kind of pressure and attacks on media must be stopped. She said he must immediately be brought home and an investigation should be carried out into the matter. “Zero tolerance should be shown for this kind of actions,” she demanded.
Meanwhile while taking notice of the disappearance and return of Ali Imran Syed, the prime minister has ordered the constitution of a Joint Fact finding Committee by the Federal Ministry of Interior.
The committee will be headed by Additional Director General FIA, Ehsan Sadiq and its members will include Addl IG, Special Branch, Sindh, Joint Director General, IB, Sindh and DIG East, Sindh Police, Karachi.
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