Matiullah Jan
Matiullah Jan Image Credit: Twitter/@anoosha_ashfaq

A prominent Pakistani journalist, Matiullah Jan, returned home late on July 21, nearly 12 hours after he was abducted from Islamabad in broad daylight. The video of the kidnapping has gone viral online and people are advocating for better treatment of journalists in the country.

Family sources revealed to local media outlets that unidentified people released Jan in a deserted part of the Fateh Jang area, outside of the city.

His family confirmed that he was not tortured during the period of his abduction, local news outlets reported.

A local news channel quoted Jan as saying after his return that he was blindfolded and taken to an unknown location after his kidnapping. He was then driven around the city before being released in Fateh Jang, where some residents helped him reach his family.

CCTV footage surfaces

Earlier in the day, closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage showing his alleged abduction surfaced on social media, which showed several armed men exiting vehicles.

The videos were shared by several journalists on social media, however, police are yet to comment on their authenticity.

Sharing the clip, tweep @AsadAToor wrote: “Another CCTV footage showing six vehicles included four cars, one double cabin and an ambulance all with black window glasses used to abduct @Matiullahjan919 from outside G6 school at 11:10am today. Plain clothes men with two uniform guys seen picking #matiullahjan. #BringBackMatiullah”

Jan, a freelancer who has worked for numerous local and foreign media outlets, was due to appear in the Supreme Court of Pakistan this week after it took notice of an alleged contemptuous tweet by the journalist, local media reported.

Outrage online

News of Jan’s disappearance triggered a response on social media as the hashtags #matiullahjan and #bringbackmatiullah trended on Twitter in Pakistan.

A tweet was posted on Matiullah Jan's Twitter account, @Matiullahjan919, 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.”

Netizens took the opportunity to criticise the Pakistani government for hindering the freedom of press in the country.

Journalist Syed Talat Hussain, @TalatHussain12, wrote: “Matiullah Jan's abduction from the heart of Islamabad tells you the regime of fear and terror that the Imran [Khan] government has created in Pakistan.”

The German Ambassador to Pakistan, Bernhard Schlagheck, @GermanyinPAK, commented on the issue: “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.”

Terming the incident 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 [First Information Report]", local news outlets reported.

Human Rights Minister of Pakistan, Shireen Mazari, @ShireenMazari1, tweeted: “Just informed about @Matiullahjan919 kidnapping. Have taken note and spoken to the IG (Inspector General) Islamabad who informed me they are looking into it. Very disturbing.”

Giving an update on his return, Jan tweeted on the same day: “I am back home safe and sound. God has been kind to me and my family. I am grateful to friends, national and international. Journalist community, political parties, social media and rights activists, lawyers bodies, the judiciary for their quick response which made it possible.”

Journalists in Pakistan

Pakistan is considered a problematic country when it comes to journalists. Instances of killing and imprisoning reporters have surfaced throughout the year. According to a report by Pakistani newspaper The Nation, at least 26 journalists were killed in Pakistan between 2014 and 2018. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), five journalists were killed in Pakistan in 2019. In the past, several instances of journalists being victim to such 'abductions' have surfaced.