Outcry as Pakistan paramilitary Rangers search home of New York Times reporter

Journalist Salman Masood said at least six Rangers arrived at his home around 7.30am "in search of a suspect".
Journalist Salman Masood said at least six Rangers arrived at his home around 7.30am "in search of a suspect". PHOTO: TWITTER/SALMAN MASOOD

ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Pakistan's paramilitary Rangers force raided the home of a New York Times journalist on Tuesday (Jan 12), sparking a wave of criticism on social media and prompting an investigation by the Interior Ministry.

Journalist Salman Masood live-tweeted the search, fuelling outrage by other users who questioned why the authorities would target members of the international media while, as user a-siab put it, "turning a blind eye to activities of banned terrorist outfits".

Mr Masood, a correspondent at the newspaper, told Agence France-Presse that at least six Rangers arrived at his home around 7.30am "in search of a suspect".

When he refused to let them in without a warrant, they left, but returned later with an officer and inspected the home for a few minutes without removing anything.

He said at least one other house in the neighbourhood also appeared to have been searched, and that when he tried to introduce himself, they "weren't keen" on knowing who he was.

"Such raids and activities are not acceptable," a government statement quoted Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar as saying.

The ministry has been asked to investigate who ordered the raid and why, the statement said.

Police raids and anti-militant operations are common in Islamabad, with the capital criss-crossed by Rangers and other security force units.

But it is unclear if the search of Mr Masood's home was a routine operation, as stated by police, or if it was an attempt to intimidate the journalist - which Human Rights Watch lawyer Saroop Ijaz said was a "distinct possibility".

Either way, Mr Ijaz told AFP, it was not acceptable to deprive someone of the fundamental right to privacy.

Mr Ijaz also recalled "the long history of Pakistani security forces using strong arm tactics against the press, and their history with New York Times".

In 2013 New York Times bureau chief Declan Walsh was expelled from the country for unspecified "undesirable activities".

The press in general comes under regular attack in Pakistan, where more than 70 journalists have been killed in the line of duty since 2001, according to the UN. It ranked the country among the worst for unresolved cases of violence against the media.