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Justice Minallah Suspends Notices Issued To Journalist Bilal Ghauri, Says FIA Flouting Court Orders

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Islamabad High Court (IHC) suspended two notices issued to journalist Bilal Ghauri by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) whose Cyber Crime Reporting Centre in Islamabad had summoned him for alleged ‘defamation through social media via Youtube’.

The court observed that FIA officials are violating the court’s order by issuing notices to journalists. Justice Athar Minallah, while hearing the case, ordered FIA Cyber Crime cell’s director to appear before the court on June 30.

Bilal Ghauri was represented by lawyers Imaan Mazari and Bilal Warraich who argued that the FIA summoned the journalist without telling any reason and that PECA was being misused to harass journalists.

Justice Athar Minallah remarked that the notice indicates that FIA officials have been flouting the court’s orders. “The court has said repeatedly that civil rights have to be protected,” he added.

Meanwhile, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has condemned the notice issued to the journalist and termed it a case of harassment of journalists.

“The authorities should allow all members of the press to freely report on state institutions, including the military,” the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement.

The statement further noted, “M. Waseem Sikandar, a sub-inspector at the Federal Investigation Agency’s Cyber Crime Reporting Centre in Islamabad, issued a summons for Ghauri to appear for questioning on June 25 regarding alleged “defamation through social media via Youtube,” according to a copy of the summons, which CPJ reviewed, and the journalist, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.

The summons states that it was issued in response to a complaint by Syed Abbas Mohiuddin, a former member of the Provincial Assembly of Attock District, but does not describe the specific defamation allegations.

Ghauri, who publishes political commentary on his YouTube channel, which has about 90,000 subscribers and previously worked as a contributor to the Urdu-language newspaper The Daily Jang, told CPJ that he believed the complaint was likely issued in response to a video series he aired from 2019 to 2020 about Pakistan’s army chiefs.

“Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency needs to accept that critical coverage of key state institutions, including the army, is an essential aspect of democracy and press freedom,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Authorities should stop harassing Muhammad Bilal Ghauri, cease summoning him for questioning, and allow him and other journalists to report freely.”

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