FIA Declines ‘Unknown’ Request To Register Cases Against Journalists
After the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) initiated an inquiry against 49 journalists under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), a senior official of the agency reportedly said that the FIA will not register cases against these media-persons.
Samaa reporter Roohan Ahmad claimed that the FIA has ‘refused to lodge FIRs against the journalists. Refusing to name anyone, the official confirmed that they were told to lodge cases but they said FIA won’t file FIRs on its own’.
The journalist added: “The senior FIA official, however, confirmed that an inquiry is being conducted against over 50 journalists and social media activists for the past couple of weeks but the investigation is not yet concluded.”
In a statement, the FIA said the agency has received complaints against 49 social media activists from a few complainants with evidence. “Cases have been registered against these activists and the FIA is issuing notices to these activists shortly,” the agency said.
According to reports, the list contains the name of senior journalists who are critical of state policies. Azad Chauhdry, Umar Cheema, Murtaza Solgani, Ammar Masood, and Asad Ali Toor to name a few.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) condemned the FIA’s move, tweeting, “The HRCP is alarmed by the news in circulation that the FIA is registering cases against 49 journalists and social media activists under PECA regulations. We demand that the state refrain from such action and stop using the FIA to curb political dissent.”
Amnesty International had also reacted to the news reports, calling upon authorities to withdraw the alleged charges immediately. “Intimidating journalists through the draconian Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act is the latest and most brazen attack on freedom of expression in the country. We call upon authorities to withdraw these charges immediately,” it said in a tweet.
Pakistan: Intimidating journalists through the draconian Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act is the latest and most brazen attack on freedom of expression in the country. We call upon authorities to withdraw these charges immediately. #JournalismIsntACrime
— Amnesty International South Asia (@amnestysasia) September 24, 2020
Earlier this week, a PTI lawmaker moved a private member bill in the National Assembly, seeking to criminalise ‘defaming the armed forces or any of its members’.
The bill was moved after three journalists and a rights activist were booked over the past week over allegations of propaganda against state institutions.
On Sept 11, Journalist Bilal Farooqi was arrested and booked on charges of defaming the Pakistan Army and ‘hate speech’ over his social media posts. Rights activists and journalists condemned his arrest, saying that his detention was another instance of a clampdown on dissent.
Similarly, former Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) chairman Absar Alam, journalist Asad Ali Toor, and Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) member Ihtesham Afghan have been booked by the police under charges relating to the defamation of state institutions and anti-state activities.
The complaint, registered by a resident of Rawalpindi named Ehtisham Ahmed, against Toor stated that “[Toor] spread negative propaganda and used derogatory language against the government institutions, including the Pakistan Army, which was a grave crime according to the law.”