RSF calls for release of journalists

KARACHI: International media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called for the immediate release of two journalists held by the police in Sindh.

According to the RSF, both journalists were victims of enforced disappearances before the police confirmed their arrests.

Rafaqat Ali Jarwar, correspondent of Daily Koshish in Tanda Bago — a small town 100km southeast of Hyderabad — was kidnapped on Feb 15. But it was on March 2 that the police admitted having him in their custody.

Mr Jarwar was charged with terrorism, the report said, adding that according to security forces he was part of a group created by India’s intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

Kamran Sahito, who works for the Sindh Express newspaper and BOL TV, was kidnapped in similar circumstances on Feb 6 in Hyderabad. The police repeatedly denied holding him but his father filed a complaint with a court of law. On Feb 28, the judge ordered the police to produce Mr Sahito within three days. He was charged with burglary.

“The crude police behaviour and trumped-up charges border on the absurd,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “These reporters are clearly the collateral victims of the relentless harassment of independent journalism in Sindh.”

“We call on the government to dispatch an independent commission of inquiry to shed light on these arbitrary arrests. The police must stop serving as the armed wing of private interests, as is so often the case in this province,” he asserted.

Mr Jarwar’s brother, fellow journalist Nasrullah Jarwar, told RSF that his brother’s abduction was a reprisal for his investigative coverage of complaints by local sugar cane producers about their treatment by major landowners with links to provincial politicians.

Mr Sahito’s father said he was concerned for his son’s safety and feared he could be used as an example to intimidate other journalists.