Islamabad, Pakistan – A prominent Pakistani journalist missing for more than four months has returned home in Sialkot city, his family and police said.
Imran Riaz Khan, a former TV news presenter with more than three million followers on YouTube, was arrested at Sialkot airport in May while he was on his way to Oman.
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In the video message posted on X, formerly Twitter, shortly after his arrest on May 11, the 47-year-old journalist said the “space to talk is shrinking in the country and I am being forced into silence”.
“I am leaving the country so I can continue speaking,” said the journalist, who is a vocal supporter of jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan. The two are not related.
عمران ریاض خان کو گرفتار کرلیا گیا ہے، انکو بغیر کسی وارنٹ کے، بغیر کسی جرم کے حراست میں لے لیا گیا ہے۔ گرفتاری سے قبل انکی آخری وڈیو۔ پاکستان زندہ آباد۔
IRK Team. pic.twitter.com/BUUX8qEQ0e
— Imran Khan (@ImranRiazKhan) May 10, 2023
“He [Imran Riaz Khan] reached home safely this [Monday] morning,” Khan’s younger brother Usman Riaz Khan told Al Jazeera.
In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Sialkot police said Khan “has been safely recovered” and is now with his family. The police, however, did not say from where the journalist was recovered.
Khan’s lawyer Mian Ashfaq Ali told Al Jazeera the journalist’s return took a long time due to “countless difficulties and a weak judiciary”.
Al Jazeera reached out to Murtaza Solangi, the interim information minister, to seek more details on the journalist’s release but received no response.
Khan’s arrest came two days after deadly violence erupted across Pakistan in protest against Imran Khan’s arrest on corruption charges.
Four days after the arrest, the police told a court in Lahore the journalist was freed within 24 hours. But there was no trace of him, with the police denying keeping him in custody.
No one claimed responsibility for Khan’s disappearance, but many believed he was abducted by security agencies controlled by the country’s powerful army.
Khan’s family approached the Lahore High Court to seek help in finding him. After multiple hearings, the court on September 20 issued a “last warning” to the police to present the missing journalist by Tuesday.
Pakistan has a checkered record regarding the safety of journalists and media freedom. It was ranked 150th on the 2023 World Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).