Two Pakistani journalists, Rab Nawaz Joya and Javed Kanwal Chandor, have been held since 10 November in a police station in Okara district, in the northeastern province of Punjab. Although charged with theft and fraud, they were arrested for helping Pakistani and international news media get background information about Ajmal Kasab, a participant in the November 2008 terrorist attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai.
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the Pakistani government denied that Kasab was of Pakistani origin.
“It is intolerable that two Pakistani journalists are being treated like criminals for helping to establish the truth about the only surviving member of the Mumbai attackers commando,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This information may have been embarrassing for the Pakistani authorities, but it is unacceptable that these two reporters are being held just for doing their duty as journalists.”
The press freedom organisation added: “The absurd charges brought against them fail to conceal the real motive for their arrest. We call for them to be freed without delay and for all the charges to be dropped.”
Joya, a correspondent for the Urdu-language newspaper Akhbar Al-Mashriq, and Chandor, a Dunya News TV reporter, are accused of trying to steal money and a mobile phone from a car parked outside the Depalpur Press Club, of which Joya is the president and Chandor is the secretary general. They are also accused of embezzling public funds.
Lahore-based journalists who spoke to them in the police station where they are being held in very poor conditions quoted them as saying they were being punished for “helping national and international media know more about Ajmal Kasab” and for helping reporters to get to Faridkot, the village near Depalpur where Kasab is from.
“Since then we are facing hostility from people in the security agencies and local administration,” the two journalists added.