THE International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest journalist group, expressed serious concern over the reported kidnapping of Daniel Pearl, South Asia Bureau Chief of the Wall Street Journal, by a previously unknown group. The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty. The journalist went missing on January 23rd while in Karachi to interview leaders of radical Islamic groups.
The IFJ has called on all media and journalists working in the region to be alert to the possibility of further attacks. "This is a dangerous moment for all journalists and media staff," says the IFJ, "extra care must be taken in organising work in the area."
A number of news organisations, including The Wall Street Journal, received an e-mail that accused Pearl of being a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent posing as a journalist. The message included four photographs of Pearl - one with a gun pointed at his head.
The message claims that Pearl was being kept "in very inhuman circumstances quite similar in fact to the way Pakistanis and nationals of other sovereign countries are being kept in Cuba by the American army. If the Americans keep our countrymen in better conditions, then we will better the conditions of Mr. Pearl and all other Americans that we capture."
The e-mail message demanded that Pakistanis being held at Guantanamo Bay be given access to lawyers and their families, and be returned to Pakistan to be tried in a Pakistani court. It also demanded the release of Taliban's former ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, who was deported from Pakistan to Afghanistan and turned over to United States military forces.
The IFJ calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Pearl and particularly urges the media in Pakistan to assist efforts to publicize our concerns and to secure his safe return.