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Criticising Mohammad Bin Salman Lands Pakistani Journalists Into Trouble

Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Director of Cybercrime Wing has directed action against senior journalists, social media activists and religio-political groups for ‘a targeted social media campaign’ against Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman’s recent visit to Pakistan.

The notification dated March 13, 2019 to all Addition Directors of Cybercrime Wing of FIA names journalists Murtaza Solangi, Matiullah Jan, Ammar Masood, Azaz Syed and Umar Cheema along with social media activist Ahmed Waqas Goraya and political organisations including Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen (MWM), Imamia Students Organization (ISO), Hizb-ul-Tahrir Pakistan and Tameer-e-Watan Party, Islamabad.

The reason cited in the notification for directing action against the journalists and activist Ahmed Waqas Goraya is that they ‘displayed the picture of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khoshogi on their social media profile DPs which conveyed a very disrespectful message to the visiting dignitary/guest’.

Although marked confidential, the notification is circulating on social media and is being condemned by journalists and activists.

The groups/parties action against which has been directed have been accused of being ‘most active on social media against Mohammad Bin Salman’s visit to Pakistan’.

All Additional Directors Cybercrime, Rawalpindi, have been ‘directed to register the enquiries’ against all the activists/groups mentioned in the notification.

Murtaza Solangi was incensed.

Ammar Masood said nothing can be reported on TV or the newspaper, columns aren’t published, tweets are not allowed and now they are threatening us over changing display pictures even. “Let’s not forget freedom of speech is a basic tenet of Pakistan’s constitution”, Ammar said.

Ejaz Haider termed it ‘utter nonsense’ and suggested putting ‘this notification in a pipe and smoke it’.

Waseem Abbasi, investigative journalist associated with Jang group, said, “So much for press freedom and constitutional rights under a ‘democratic’ government.”

Mohammad bin Salman has been under pressure after the murder of Wall Street Journal analyst Jamal Khashoggi in October last year inside Saudi embassy in Istanbul. Salman has been linked with the murder since Khashoggi was a fierce critic of the crown prince’s tactics.

Bin Salman visited Pakistan on 17th of February, 2019 and had announced business deals worth USD 20 billion with Pakistan, including setting up of an oil refinery in Gwadar.

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