Pakistan: Journalist arrested for social media posts
Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) is concerned over the registration of a case against a journalist for his allegedly “highly provocative” social media posts. We join calls for an inquiry into the case as well as the arrest of English-language daily The Express Tribune News Editor, Bilal Farooqi.
The use of criminal complaints against journalists is a way of intimidating and silencing voices. It is incumbent upon the relevant authorities to investigate such complaints prior to making arrests. PPF is also concerned about the registration of a case against former Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) chief Absar Alam.
On September 11, Farooqi was “picked up” by police from outside his house in the metropolitan city of Karachi. Hours later he was released.
According to The Express Tribune, Farooqi was detained in response to a First Information Report (FIR), criminal complaint, that was registered against him on September 9. According to the report the journalist’s wife, Tashfeen Farooqi said their landlord asked Farooqi to come outside with his identity card as police were conducting a “survey” in their street .
When her husband didn’t return, she went to see and he wasn’t there. Additionally, the landlord said that the journalist had been driven away by two policemen who were accompanied by two men who were not in uniform. She later received a call from her husband who said he was being held at the Defence police station. Police again visited their residence again and took Bilal’s mobile phone from his wife.
In the early hours of Saturday, Bilal was released on what his friends and colleagues said was “personal bail” of his lawyer and civil rights activist Jibran Nasir.
A Sindh Law Department spokesperson has said that they will investigate the criminal complaint.
According to the FIR the case against the journalist was registered under Section 500 (punishment for defamation) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and Section 11 (hate speech) and 20 (offences against dignity of a natural person) of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016.
According to Dawn, the complainant of the FIR, Javed Khan said he checked his Facebook and Twitter accounts and found highly objectionable material shared by Farooqi on the two platforms,” that were “highly provocative posts” against the Pakistan Army and also material concerning religious hatred. The complainant said that Farooqi had “defamed” the army and such posts “may be used by hostile elements for their nefarious designs”.
The first hearing of Farooqi’s case was held on September 13.
The Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ) Secretary General Ahmed Khan Malik said Farooqi’s arrest was “part of a nefarious and concerted campaign to gag the free and independent voices”.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also expressed alarm at Farooqi’s arrest and demanded an impartial inquiry into the matter.
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) also condemned the arrest and PFUJ President Shehzada Zulfiqar and Secretary General Nasir Zaidi said Bilal’s arrest “on complaint by some unknown person” is “proof of high handedness of authorities who just want to suppress the media and journalist community”. They called for the immediate withdrawal of the case against him.
The PFUJ also condemned the registration of a criminal complaint (FIR) against former Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Chairman Absar Alam.
The criminal complaint was registered against Alam in the Punjab province on the application of a lawyer, Khursheed Alam, who stated that “Absar Alam on his Twitter account has used derogatory language against state institutions and personalities”. The criminal complaint said the tweets were seditious, and that the journalist should be charged with High Treason.
The PFUJ said that the “concocted case seems to be an agenda being followed by the current government against freedom of speech and media.” The PFUJ urged the government to withdraw the FIR against the former PEMRA chief.