ISLAMABAD, 10 January 2018: Taha Siddiqui, Bureau Chief of online news website World Is One News and country correspondent of France 24/7 was assaulted by 10 – 12 armed men this morning and escaped an abduction attempt.
Using the twitter account of Dawn News correspondent Cyril Almeida, Mr. Siddiqui tweeted that the attempt was made at 8:30 am this morning, while he was on his way to the airport.
This is Taha Siddiqui (@TahaSSiddiqui) using Cyrils a/c. I was on my way to airport today at 8:20am whn 10-12 armed men stopped my cab & forcibly tried to abduct me. I managed to escape. Safe and with police now. Looking for support in any way possible #StopEnforcedDisappearances
— cyril almeida (@cyalm) January 10, 2018
— cyril almeida (@cyalm) January 10, 2018
Another journalist, Asad Hashim, associated with Reuters, who accompanied the attacked journalist to the police station, later tweeted that Mr. Sidduqi had been tortured and injured during the attempt and the assailants also took away his personal belongings.
— Asad Hashim (@AsadHashim) January 10, 2018
Digital Rights Monitor has not yet been able to talk directly to Mr. Siddiqui. Sources close to the family revealed that Taha was on his way to the United Kingdom early in the morning when this incident happened.
The attack has raised concerns in civil society, journalist and political communities.
“This incident simply goes on to demonstrate the devastating impact of continuing impunity in crimes against journalists. Unless the state responds to such cases with urgency, attacks against the media will continue”, says Sadaf Khan, Director Programs, Media Matters for Democracy.
Senior Awami National Party, ANP leader, Afrasyab Khattak, condemned the attack in twitter, stating that “fascist methods of oppression by state institutions against dissent have enjoyed impunity which encourages such attacks”.
Attack on well known journalist @TahaSSiddiqui is condemnable. Fascist methods of oppression by state institutions against dissent have enjoyed impunity which encourages such attacks. Culprits must be brought to book. Will the CJP take a suo motto notice?
— Afrasiab Khattak (@a_siab) January 10, 2018
A history of intimidation
In May 2017, Siddiqui was approached by Nauman Bodla, Deputy Director of the Counter Terrorism Wing of the Federal Investigation Agency, FIA, asking him to appear before the counterterrorism wing of the Agency in connection with his social media activity. In response to the irregular manner in which he was approached, Siddiqui had filed a petition to Islamabad High Court.
After the initiation of the hearing the case was transferred from Counter Terrorism wing to cybercrime unit of FIA, National Response Centre for Cyber Crimes, NR3C. The case has not been concluded as yet.
A concerning trend
The attack on Siddiqui is the latest in what appears to be an escalating trend to intimidate and harass journalists in the Capital. This is the fourth such attempt in Islamabad since June 2017. Talking to DRM, Azaz Syed, a senior correspondent with Geo News said that “This is a clear attempt to harass Taha because of his vocal stand on many issues, especially on security issues in the country. This happening in Islamabad, the capital city with the highest security arrangementsare, this cannot be the work of any non-state actors”.
The reporter Aizaz Syed himself also averted an attempted kidnapping on 2nd June 2017, when undentified men on a car and motorcycle tried to stop his car but he sped and took shelter in the nearby police station. On the same day, an Iranian photojournalist Zeeshan Ali working with Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) was assaulted by armed men near G-8 Islamabad when he was taking pictures. They also took away his equipment.
Following that attempt, another similar attack was made on Waqt News renowned anchorperson Matiullah Jan was attacked while he was going with his family in a car. Two men on motorcycle threw a heavy brick on the windscreen of his car while he was on his way to Bara Kahu from Islamabad. He remained unhurt in the incident.
In October 2017, Geo News senior reporter Ahmed Noorani was attacked by knife wielding men near Zero Point in Islamabad.
It is important to note that, Pakistan is ranked among the top ten dangerous countries for journalists. According to International Federation of Journalists’ report, four journalists were killed in Pakistan during 2017.