A prominent Pakistani journalist and a vocal critic of Pakistan's powerful military, today said he was assaulted 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. "It is a miracle that I am still alive... But I am in deep shock," he told reporters. He said the taxi-driver was an eyewitness to the entire scene and police should trace him to verify the account. Siddiqui said the attackers were well informed about his travel plans as they knew that "I was going to the airport". He said he feared for his safety and asked the Islamabad police chief to provide security to him and his family. 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)," shouted the men, who Siddiqui said were armed with Kalashnikovs and pistols. 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. "Finally reconnected on social media & got new phone. Thank u all for support. I shall not be silenced," he later tweeted. Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal has taken notice of the attack on the journalist and has asked Islamabad police to brief him about the incident and the investigation, according to an official of his ministry. Superintendent of Police Mustafa Tanveer confirmed that Siddiqui, who is the Pakistan bureau chief at World Is One News (WION) approached police soon after the incident. Tanveer said that Siddiqui was in a private taxi when he was stopped by armed men. He said the investigation has been launched and police are trying to get the footage of the security cameras. "Initial probe showed that registration number of one the vehicles was fake," he said. The attack on Siddiqui came just months after investigative journalist Ahmed Noorani was badly thrashed in a car in Islamabad by unknown armed men. Reacting to the incident, 'World Is One News's Editor- in-Chief, Sudhir Chaudhury said, "We now expect the government of Pakistan to ensure Taha Siddiqui's safety and security and get to the bottom of these dastardly attacks, intimidation, assaults and threats to our colleague". "Despite the shocking attack on WION's Pakistan Bureau Chief, Taha Siddiqui, WION remains committed to pursue fearless journalism from the soil of Pakistan. We will continue to report, expose and comment on events in that country," Chaudhury said in a statement in New Delhi. Noted news anchor Hamid Mir who himself survived a brutal gun attack in 2014 tweeted, "Journalist community must condemn the kidnapping attempt of @TahaSSiddiqui with full unity no compromise on harassment of media". Deputy South Asia Director at Amnesty International Omar Waraich said, "What journalist Taha Siddiqui has experienced needs to be condemned by not only all journalists but everyone -- you should not have to fear for your life and personal safety for doing your job". Recently, Siddiqui criticised the Pakistani press' treatment of Indian death-row prisoner Kulbhushan Jadhav's mother and wife who were visiting him. "Somedays we do a story that disgusts us. Today was one such day.
But it was not because of what I covered. Rather it was because of how my fellow journalists behaved with the mother and wife of #KulbushanJadhav when they left FO (Foreign Office) building. They shouted taunts. It was very shameful," Siddiqui tweeted on December 25 after Jadhav met his family in Islamabad. "Many of these journalists are familiar faces at Foreign Office briefings and have a number of years of experience before being allotted such an important news beat to cover. And yet on Monday, when they were covering the meet-up, they seemed to have lost all sense of ethics when it comes to reporting," Taha had written in an article in 'World Is One News'. When Kulbhushan Jadhav's family visited in Pakistan, Taha was the only media professional to criticise the ill behaviour given to his family and got trolled on social media by fellow Pakistani journalists, WION said in the statement. 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 previously filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court alleging that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had harassed him over the phone. On May 24, the court 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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