NA Human Rights Committee Apologises To Shahzeb Jilani Over Mistreatment, Summons FIA
ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights summoned the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) over cyber-terrorism charges against journalist Shahzeb Jilani in different cases.
The committee, chaired by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, was briefed by journalist Shahzeb Jilani about the case filed against him by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on the complaint of a local lawyer advocate Maulvi Mohammad Iqbal, in which he accused Jilani of defaming the integrity of state institutions.
Jilani argued that he has been associated with national and international media organizations for 25 years and has worked in different countries, but came back to Pakistan as my heart is here with my country. “I was charged in three major cases, cyber terrorism, hate speech and defamation by the investigation agency,” Jilani told the committee.
Shahzib told the committee that FIA can arrest anyone prior to the case under the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (PECA) 2016 and the same went for him. “That is why I got a bail prior to the arrest.” “I was summoned 15 times by the court because I worked on enforced disappearances in Balochistan,” Jilani further said.
“The space for freedom of expression is shrinking day by day for dissenting voices who present an alternative view on the country’s political landscape. Being invited by the committee is a great opportunity for me that still keeps hopes of a democratic society alive,” Shahzeb concluded.
FA, Digital rights activist Farieha Aziz briefed the committee after the Chairman requested her to shed light on the cybercrime act. “There are no data submitted regarding FIA actions under this law to any department and this law should be reviewed immediately because cyber terrorism isn’t fulfilling all requirements of fundamental rights,” Farieha told the committee.
Another human rights defender told the committee that FIA raiding houses of people violating privacy. “They raided houses of journalists, political workers, and other dissenters, confiscated their data from their laptops and mobiles and later emotionally blackmailed them to accept charges.”
Its pertained to mentioned here that special magistrate on Saturday dismissed the case against Shahzeb Jilani on zero evidence ground. Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari told the committee that government is in consultation with journalists on the journalist protection bill which will soon be passed.
Chairman of the committee Bilawal Bhutto Zardari apologized to Shahzeb Jilani over treatment by FIA and argued that no one will be allowed to harm or violate article 19 which safeguards the freedom of expression.
“Freedom of expression is the mother of all democratic values and the committee will summon the concerned officials for clarification in next meeting,” Bilawal added.
The author is a reporter based in Islamabad.