WION scribe Taha Siddiqui assaulted in Islamabad, escapes armed abductors

By NL Team

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That Pakistan is no safe country for journalists was reinforced on Wednesday when news broke that Taha Siddiqui, the Pakistani bureau chief of Indian television channel WION who earlier reported for France 24, escaped an abduction attempt after being attacked on his way to the airport in Islamabad by 10-12 armed men.

“I was on my way to airport today at 8:20 am when 10-12 armed men stopped my cab & forcibly tried to abduct me.I managed to escape. Safe and with police now,” Siddiqui tweeted from a friend’s Twitter account, Dawn journalist @cyalm, in the morning.

“Safe and with police now. Looking for support in any way possible #StopEnforcedDisappearances,” he wrote.

It does not seem to be a coincidence that Siddiqui is known to target Pakistan’s powerful army and had earlier complained of being harassed by the authorities for publishing bold views. Forced disappearances and attacks on outspoken scribes are common in the country.

Siddiqui, winner of France’s highest journalism award Albert Londres, suffered injuries in the scuffle and his belongings were stolen.

Al-Jazeera journalist Asad Hashim tweeted that “journalism is not a crime”.

“With @TahaSSiddiqui right now. It is a miracle that he escaped. He was beaten, threatened with death and his belongings taken. This is unacceptable,” he wrote.

According to a report in Pakistan’s The News, Siddiqui spoke to Reuters from a police station and described how his taxi was stopped on the highway when another vehicle braked suddenly in front of it.

“About a dozen men armed with rifles and revolvers pulled him out of the cab, beat him and ‘threatened to kill’ him. ‘They threw me in the back of the vehicle in which I had been travelling, but the door on the other side was open’, Siddiqui said. ‘I jumped out and ran and was able to get into a taxi that was nearby, whose driver then floored it.’ When the taxi stopped, Siddiqui hid in a ditch for a while,” the report said, detailing the assault.

Months ago, reporter Ahmad Noorani was attacked in Islamabad in a similar fashion.

Reacting to the news, Human Rights Watch country representative Saroop Ijaz was quoted as saying by AFP: “This is extremely worrying and reinforces the fear that human rights groups and media organisations have voiced for a while now that the Pakistan government views violence as an instrument of dealing with dissenting voices. This is also a reflection of the impunity that has existed for a long time, and has been increasing recently.”