NEW YORK: The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on Pakistani security forces to immediately release journalist Khalil Afridi, who police are holding without charge in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The authorities detained the correspondent for the Khyber News TV channel on November 24 after an explosive device was found under a car he had rented, according to news reports.
“Pakistani authorities should immediately release Khalil Afridi and conduct an efficient and thorough investigation into who planted a bomb under his car,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia Programme Coordinator from Washington DC. “It is outrageous that Pakistani forces should detain and question the victim of an attack on press freedom, rather than focusing on the hunt for the attackers.”
Afridi had rented a car in the town of Jamroud and was travelling to the Khyber tribal region with four other journalists when the bomb was discovered, according to Iqbal Khattak, director of local press freedom group Freedom Network Pakistan, and an article from the US Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, whose correspondent, Farhad Shinwari, was in the car. The group was covering a vintage car rally in the Khyber region.
People in the next vehicle saw the explosives hanging underneath the journalists’ car and alerted them at a checkpoint near the town of Landi Kotal, according to RFE/RL. A bomb-disposal unit then defused 2 kilogrammes of explosives from the bomb, the radio station reported.
Police detained Afridi and Shinwari as well as journalists Mehrab Afridi, Umar Khan, and Imran Khattak, in addition to the man who spotted the bomb, Mian Sajid.
Police also took Hussain Ali, an employee of the Landi Kotal Press Club, into custody after they learned he had helped fix a punctured tire on the rental car.
Following a 12-hour interrogation, police released everyone except Afridi and Ali.
The released reporters did not provide information about their detention, but Sajid suffered severe mental stress.