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The Pakistani government must release Zeenat Shahzadi from custody

32 IFEX members demand journalist Zeenat Shahzadi be immediately released to her family, and that her freedom of movement be fully restored.

26 year old Pakistani journalist Zeenat Shahzadi was kidnapped off the streets of Lahore in August 2015.
26 year old Pakistani journalist Zeenat Shahzadi was kidnapped off the streets of Lahore in August 2015.

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TO: Chief Minister of Punjab Shehbaz Sharif

CC: Minister for Foreign Affairs Khawaja Muhammad Asif
Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Baja
Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar
High Commission of Canada to Pakistan Perry John Calderwood
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan
Major General Asif Ghafoor (Director General ISPR)
Interim Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland

The Pakistani government must release Zeenat Shahzadi from custody

Your Excellency,

We, the undersigned, are a global coalition of non-governmental organizations that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression.

We call upon Pakistan to immediately allow freedom of movement to journalist Zeenat Shahzadi, who was recently released after two years in captivity. The 26 year old Pakistani journalist was recovered from her kidnappers last month after having vanished from the streets of Lahore, yet she has not yet been released from government custody. There is no justification for this delay. For the sake of her safety, Shahzadi must be immediately released to her family and allowed to seek counsel and treatment from qualified professionals.

Zeenat Shahzadi was kidnapped off the streets of Lahore on 19 August 2015, and had no contact with the outside world until her release on 18 October 2017. The brazen, daylight kidnapping of a young female journalist was the first of its kind in Pakistan.

It is not yet clear who was responsible for Shahzadi's kidnapping, or under what circumstances she was released. For the safety and security of all journalists in Pakistan it is critical that the perpetrators be brought to justice, and that authorities provide transparency and accountability in their investigations of her kidnapping.

Pakistan is one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists, who are frequently targeted for kidnapping, assault, and murder. 1,300 out of a total 3,000 missing people's cases remain pending before the Commission on Enforced Disappearances. In addition to the missing persons' crisis, Pakistan ranks sixth in the list of the 20 Deadliest Countries for journalists in the world, and as the ninth worst country in the world for impunity for crimes against journalists.

Shahzadi's family suffered a tragedy in March 2016 when Shahzadi's teenaged brother, distraught over her kidnapping, hanged himself. It is unconscionable that her family be delayed from reuniting with their daughter and sister any longer. The Pakistani government must immediately release Shahzadi to her family.

Signed,

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
ActiveWatch – Media Monitoring Agency
Adil Soz - International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
Afghanistan Journalists Center (AFJC)
Albanian Media Institute
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Association for Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS)
Bytes for All (B4A)
Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)
Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
Center for Media Studies & Peace Building (CEMESP)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Federation of Nepali Journalists
Foundation for Press Freedom - FLIP
Freedom Forum
Independent Journalism Center - Moldova
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
International Press Centre (IPC)
International Press Institute (IPI)
MARCH
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ)
Norwegian PEN
P24 Platform for Independent Journalism
Pacific Islands News Association
PEN American Center
PEN Canada
South East European Network for Professionalization of Media
South East Europe Media Organisation
Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)

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