Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 January 2018, 09:27 GMT

2012 Predators of Press Freedom: Pakistan - Government intelligence agencies

Publisher Reporters Without Borders
Publication Date 4 May 2012
Cite as Reporters Without Borders, 2012 Predators of Press Freedom: Pakistan - Government intelligence agencies, 4 May 2012, available at: [accessed 16 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

MI, IB and ISI are the opaque acronyms used by Military Intelligence, the Intelligence Bureau and, most important of all, Inter-Services Intelligence – the Pakistani spy agencies that have repeatedly been implicated in monitoring, abduction, torture and murders of journalists.

The 2002 execution-style murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl drew attention to the links between Pakistan's intelligence services and extremist groups, including Al Qaeda. Relations between the media and the military-dominated regime have been consistently poor since the "war on terror" began. There is evidence tying the spy agencies to 21 kidnappings of journalists from 1999 to 2006.

In most cases – ranging from Geo TV correspondent Mukesh Rupeta's abduction and torture in 2006 to the threats received by renowned Geo TV host Hamid Mir in December 2011 after referring to former ISI Director-General Ahmed Shuja Pashathose's political role – those in charge of these intelligence agencies were never even questioned by civilian investigators.

The most recent case is that of Asia Times Online investigative reporter Syed Saleem Shahzad, who was found dead in his car on 21 May 2011. A specialist in covering Islamist militant groups and Al Qaeda, he had just written about a Taliban attack on the Pakistani naval air base in Karachi, reporting that Al Qaeda had developed an effective network within the navy. He had also reported that naval officers had been negotiating with an Al Qaeda operative in North Waziristan. Many journalists in Islamabad suspect that ISI kidnapped and executed Shahzad.

Operating with impunity, the Pakistani intelligence agencies constitute a major threat to press freedom.

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