Political leaders, media and human rights bodies condemn the abduction of the senior journalist
Islamabad: Journalist Matiullah Jan returned home late Tuesday night, nearly 12 hours after he was abducted from Sector G-6, a highly secured locality of the capital city in broad daylight, family sources said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Matiullah Jan, known for his criticism of undemocratic forces, was abducted from outside a school where he had come to drop his wife. Footage showed Jan being shoved into a double cabin vehicle by armed men wearing police uniforms.
— Azaz Syed (@AzazSyed) July 21, 2020
Family sources and close friends said Jan had been released by unidentified persons in a deserted area on Fateh Jang Road on the outskirts of the city.
Aizaz Syed on his twitter account wrote that I am glad to receive my friend Matiullah Jan. He has been released after 12 hours abduction.
GEO News quoted Jan as saying after his return that he was blindfolded and taken to an unknown location. He was then driven around the city before being released on Fateh Jhang Road where some residents helped him reach his family.
— Ayesha Tanzeem (@atanzeem) July 21, 2020
Speaking to Dawn.com earlier in the day, Jan’s wife had said that his car was found parked outside the school with one of his mobile phones inside the vehicle.
Jan, a freelancer who has worked for a number of local and foreign media outlets, was due to appear in the Supreme Court on Wednesday after it took suo motu notice of an alleged contemptuous tweet by the journalist.
“There were more than five people — some in plainclothes, others in black uniforms — who forcibly picked up my husband,” Kaneez Sughra told AFP in a phone interview.
— Khurram Qureshi (@qureshik74) July 21, 2020
Security footage captured by the school where Sughra teaches showed several men force Jan into a sedan outside the main gate.
The footage showed Jan toss a mobile phone over the school fence, only for a school security guard to hand it back to a man in uniform.
Breaking News: Senior Jouranlist @Matiullahjan919 finally recovered.
Matiullah Jan is back. Congratulation to family.
— Zahid Gishkori (@ZahidGishkori) July 21, 2020
Chief Justice Islamabad High Court Justice Athar Minallah has ordered the recovery of Jan and asked the authorities that if he could not be recovered, the parties should appear in person tomorrow.
Location of the abduction
A petition filed in the by Jan’s elder brother, making interior and defence ministries and capital’s police chief respondents.
— Asma Shirazi (@asmashirazi) July 21, 2020
Sughra said her husband had been followed by unknown men in recent weeks. In 2017, an unidentified assailant threw a brick at his car.
As the news of his disappearance drew the attention of journalists and international rights bodies, a tweet was posted on Jan’s account at 3:17pm — purportedly by his son — which read: “Matiullahjan, my father, has been abducted from the heart of the capital [Islamabad]. I demand he be found and the agencies behind it immediately be held responsible. God keep him safe.”
Matiullahjan, my father, has been abducted from the heart of the capital Islamad. I demand he be foundُ and the agencies behind it immediately be held responsible. God keep him safe.
— Matiullah Jan (@Matiullahjan919) July 21, 2020
Meanwhile, Information Minister Shibli Faraz also confirmed the journalist’s abduction during a post-cabinet meeting presser later in the evening. “This much is established that he [Jan] has been kidnapped,” said Faraz. “We will try to find out where he is and how he can be recovered. This is the responsibility of the government and it will fulfil it,” he added.
Terming the development as “unacceptable”, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar said he had spoken with the Islamabad police chief and instructed him to take “immediate action for retrieval and registration of FIR”.
Earlier in the day, CCTV footages purportedly showing his alleged abduction surfaced on social media, which showed several armed men exiting at least three vehicles. The footages were shared by several journalists on social media, however, police have yet to comment on their veracity.
Soon after, the chairperson of the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights, PPP’s Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, tweeted that the IGP had been summoned to brief the committee with regards to Jan’s abduction.
As a matter of grave urgency and unquestionable importance, IG Islamabad has been asked to brief the Human Rights committee tomorrow on abduction/disappearance of renowned journalist Matiullah Jan pic.twitter.com/Dxgg8EVMSm
— Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar (@Mustafa_PPP) July 21, 2020
Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari tweeted around 5:30pm that she had been “just informed about [Jan’s] kidnapping”.
She said she had taken notice of the “very disturbing” development and spoken to the Islamabad inspector general who informed her that “they are looking into it”.
Jan had tweeted a video of a journalist’s interview earlier in the day. “This is for the attention of those who sit in the simulated air-conditioned environment of rule of law in Pakistan and who think criticism on them is a bigger crime than the violation of the inviolable dignity of a human being,” he wrote on Twitter at 11:05am this morning.
This is for the attention of those who sit in the simulated air conditioned environment of rule of law in Pakistan and who think criticism on them is a bigger crime than the violation of the inviolable dignity of a human being. https://t.co/gZIPj7ue4e
— Matiullah Jan (@Matiullahjan919) July 21, 2020
Pakistan routinely ranks among the world’s most dangerous countries for media workers, and reporters have frequently been detained, beaten and even killed over their critical views.
Five hashtags regarding Jan’s disappearance were trending on Twitter in Pakistan after the news emerged.
PML-N president and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif termed Jan’s disappearance as “highly condemnable and [a] matter of deep concern”.
“The government’s campaign to muzzle the media; critical voices is simply shameful. If something happens to Matiullah, PM will be held responsible,” he tweeted.
PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in a tweet said he was “extremely concerned” at the news of Jan’s abduction.
“The selected government must immediately [ensure] his safe return. This is not only an attack on media freedoms & democracy but on all of us. Today it is Matiullah, tomorrow it could be you or I,” he wrote.
Speaking at a press conference, senior PML-N leader Khawaja Asif said his party condemned Jan’s disappearance.
“The manner in which journalists have been silenced” in the country in the last two years and before that does not happen in civilised societies”.
MNA Mohsin Dawar also “strongly condemned” Jan’s disappearance and demanded his “safe recovery”.
Former senator Afrasiab Khattak said that the journalist’s “enforced disappearance … under the very nose of Parliament, Supreme Court and media is a serious affront”. He added that the parliamentarians, judges and journalists could “protest on Constitution Avenue if nothing else”.
Enforced disappearance of brave journalist Matiullah Jan in Islamabad under the very nose of Parliament, Supreme Court and media is a serious affront. The parliamentarians, judges & journalists can protest on Constitution Ave if they can’t do anything else.#BringBackMatiullah
— Afrasiab Khattak (@a_siab) July 21, 2020
Anchorperson Najam Sethi started a petition on Change.org calling for Jan’s “immediate release”.
German Ambassador to Pakistan Bernhard Schlagheck also took to Twitter to voice concern over the incident.
“Concerned to hear the news about the disappearance of @Matiullahjan919 today. Developments underline once again how dangerous the situation of journalists in #Pakistan is. Journalists’ safety is key for media freedom,” he tweeted.
Concerned to hear the news about the disappearance of @Matiullahjan919 today. Developments underline once again how dangerous the situation of journalists in #Pakistan is. Journalists' safety is key for media freedom. https://t.co/GOhHyEsbAV
— Bernhard Schlagheck (@GermanyinPAK) July 21, 2020
Who is Matiullah Jan?
Matiullah Jan is a journalist, communication trainer and a media law expert who also manages a personal Youtube channel by the name of MJtv.
The former host of an investigative talk show on Waqt TV and a DawnNewsTV programme, Jan served as a special correspondent for the Supreme Court and legal affairs, according to his LinkedIn profile.
His father was a lieutenant colonel in the army and he himself had joined the army but left after some time.
Jan has been harassed in the past as well. His car was also attacked in September 2017 at Bhara Kahu on the outskirts of the capital city when motorcyclists threw a brick on the windscreen of his car.
Also in June 2018, when the then military spokesman Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor accused some social media accounts of used for “anti-state propaganda tweets” and showed a chart of such accounts, Jan’s account was also highlighted.
He has also written columns for daily The Nation and Urdu daily Nawa-i-Waqt on national socio-political issues. He is a Chevening scholar and holds a Masters in International Journalism from City, University of London, as well as a Masters in Defence and Strategic Studies from Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.
Jan underwent three and a half years training as a cadet in the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul, according to his profile.
He has worked with a number of media outlets and broadcasters including Radio Pakistan, The Frontier, NNI, PTV, Reuters TV and DawnNewsTV.
On July 15, Matiullah Jan was issued a contempt of court notice by the Supreme Court after he posted a tweet regarding the ongoing case involving Justice Qazi Faez Isa.
Following the development, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) had demanded the withdrawal of the case, terming it an unjustified action during a ‘charged atmosphere’ in the country.
Supreme Court judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa and his wife Sarina Isa visited Jan’s house to express solidarity with his family.
The judge and his family met Matiullah’s wife, children and brother and expressed concerns over his disappearance.
As soon as it became viral, comments started appearing on social media.
National Assembly member Mohsin Dawar said that he strongly condemned the disappearance of
Journalist Abbas Nasir, while reporting on the disappearance of Matiullah Jan, expressed hope for his safety and said, “Such desperate measures cannot continue for long in this fascist era.”
Speaking to the BBC about the incident, Ziauddin, a senior journalist, said: “Pakistani media outlets and journalists have been under severe pressure for the past few years. Newspapers and channels are forced to self-censor. This action is not to please the government but they do not want to offend the real rulers or powerful circles.
Ziauddin says, “Journalists are being silenced through a certain practice. These include disappearances, dismissals, beatings, immorality or warnings through messages, and sometimes lawsuits against them by the NAB or other law enforcement agencies. Is registered. All of this is needed in light of the journalist’s ability to criticize and question the country’s governance.
He also said that the condition of the journalistic community in Pakistan and the organizations advocating for their rights is not such that they can play an effective role against incidents like the disappearance of journalist Matiullah. He has no interest in the situation of the country’s media industry and journalists due to criticism of the government.
#BREAKING: #JusticeQaziFaezIsa along with his wife went to @Matiullahjan919’s house to offer their support and express concern over #matiullahjan abduction. They met #Matiullah’s wife, children and brothers.#BringBackMatiullah #SupremeCourt #Pakistan pic.twitter.com/gRgwmNw4OH
— Asad Ali Toor (@AsadAToor) July 21, 2020
AWP: The Awami Workers Party also condemned Jan’s abduction in a broad daylight from outside a school.
The AWP leadership expressed deep concerns at increasing incidents of abduction of political and human rights activists as well as journalists.
This is part of the move by the powerful state organs to control the media, after controlling political forces and economy, suppress independent and dissenting voices, creating an environment of fear.
— Awami Workers Party (@AwamiWorkers) July 21, 2020
In a joint statement AWP President Yusouf Mustikhan, secretary-general Akhtar Hussain, Deputy secretary-general Ismat Shahjehan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa President Haider Zaman Khan, Sindh President Dr Bakhshal Thalho, Balochistan President Yusouf Kakar, Punjab President Ammar Rashid and Seraiki Waseb president Farhat Abbas, JKAWP chairman Nisar Shah, AWPGB Organiser Ikram Jamal expressed solidarity with the journalists’ bodies and the family of Matiullah Jan and demanded the government and the security agencies to ensure his safe recovery.
It is the responsibility of the government to provide safety and security to every citizen, irrespective of his or her religious or political beliefs.
It is worth bearing in mind that this abduction comes in the wake of a series of abductions of activists and political workers, including an AWP worker, in different parts of the country.
Jan is an upright, pro-people and fearless journalist who has stood courageously by the progressive forces and people of Pakistan who are striving to realise their fundamental rights.
He has been critical of the anti-people policies of various governments, exposing the wrongdoings, corruption of powerful state organs and individuals.
We see this incident as part of the ongoing assault on freedom of the press and speech by the hybrid regime currently in charge of the country, which is eliminating all possibility of peaceful and constitutional dissent.
The party demanded the government and the security agencies to ensure Jan’s immediate and safe return and take action against those responsible for this illegal act.
We call on all progressive and democratic forces to unite in nonviolent resistance to protect our constitutional freedoms.
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) President Shahzada Zulfiqar and Secretary-General Nasir Zaidi in a joint statement expressed serious concern over the incident.
“This has become a norm in the country to suppress voices of dissent for controlling media, imposing censorship and denying freedom of speech and expression in the country.
We stand with Jan for his courageous and bold stances on issues confronted by the people of Pakistan, media and society,” the statement said.
“If Matiullah Jan is not released within 24 hours, we will give a call for a countrywide protest, as it is the responsibility of the government to provide safety and security to each and every citizen, irrespective of his religious and political beliefs. Such cowardly tactics cannot stop media and the journalist community, from raising issues confronted by the country,” they added.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) endorsed the PFUJ’s demand for the federal government to take immediate measures for the safe release of Jan who was abducted today outside the college in Islamabad where his wife teaches.
We are deeply concerned at increasing attempts to control the media, suppress independent voices, and curb political dissent, thereby creating an environment of constant fear.
Mr Jan has stood courageously by the people of Pakistan striving to realise their constitutional and fundamental rights. It is the responsibility of the government to provide safety and security to every citizen, irrespective of his or her religious or political beliefs.
His abduction is an act of cowardice and warrants immediate redressal.