A prominent Pakistani journalist, a vocal critic of Pakistan's powerful military, today said he was beaten and threatened with death by nearly a dozen unidentified armed men who tried to abduct him. Taha Siddiqui, the Pakistani bureau chief of Indian television channel WION, said he was attacked by 10-12 men while he was going to the airport in Rawalpindi but managed to escape before being kidnapped, suffering minor injuries during the struggle, Dawn News reported. Siddiqui recounted the details of the kidnapping attempt in a series of tweets. "I was on my way to [the] airport today at 8:20 am when 10-12 armed men stopped my cab [and] forcibly tried to abduct me," Siddiqui, the winner of France's highest journalism award - The Albert Londres Prize, said in a tweet. "Saale ko goli maaro (shoot him)," the men, who Taha said were armed with Kalashnikovs and pistols, shouted. In his post, Siddiqui further said that he had managed to escape the kidnapping attempt and that he was "safe and with the police now". "Looking for support in any way possible," Siddiqui added, ending his tweet with the hashtag #StopEnforcedDisappearances. Superintendent of Police Mustafa Tanveer confirmed that Siddiqui, who is the Pakistan bureau chief at World Is One News, approached police soon after the incident. Tanveer said that Siddiqui was in a private taxi when he was stopped by armed men. Islamabad Police has began investigating the case. Siddiqui was "beaten [and] threatened with death", said journalist Asad Hashim in a tweet. In May last year, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had issued a notice to Siddiqui, known for posting comments on social media against the military, and asked him to appear before its counterterrorism wing. The Pakistani military has so far denied playing a role in any enforced disappearances, as has the civilian government.
Militants have also targeted journalists in the past. Siddiqui had filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court alleging that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had harassed him over the phone. In his petition, Siddiqui had alleged that a man named Noman Bodla, who identified himself as a member of the Counter Terrorism Department of the FIA, had called him and attempted to pressure him into appearing for an 'interrogation' at the FIA headquarters. He had added in his petition that Siddiqui mentioned that he "was reluctant to go to the FIA Headquarters on the basis that there have been several reports in the press where such phone calls are made and once the person who is to be interrogated sets out to the FIA Headquarters, he is either picked up and disappeared or detained illegally." On May 24, the IHC had asked the FIA to stop harassing the journalist. Incidents of enforced disappearances have been reported with alarming frequency in Pakistan. In November, the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, placed Pakistan among the most dangerous countries for journalists. Pakistan was ranked 139th out of 180 countries.
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