Supreme Court Restrains FIA From Arresting Journalists; AGP Provides Assurance | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Supreme Court Restrains FIA From Arresting Journalists; AGP Provides Assurance

Pakistan Press Foundation

On March 27,  the Supreme Court of Pakistan, led by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, restrained the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from arresting journalists till the next date of hearing following the issuance of notices under Section 160 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898. 

This directive came during the hearing of a suo motu notice concerning alleged harassment of journalists by the FIA. The Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP), Mansoor Usman Awan, assured the court that no journalist who had received such notices would be arrested.

The background of the issue traces to the Federal Government’s action on January 16, forming a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) under Section 30 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016. Later, on January 25, FIA sent out notices to individuals over allegations of initiating a defamatory campaign against the judiciary, though specifics of the accusations were not disclosed.

Advocate Salahuddin Ahmed, representing the Press Association of Supreme Court (PAS) and Islamabad High Court Journalists Association (IHCJA), highlighted that several journalists were being unnecessarily summoned under Section 160 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, without the registration of formal First Information Reports (FIRs). He argued that the FIA lacks the authority to investigate journalists without a magistrate’s order.

During the proceedings, Justice Isa pointed out the potential for misuse of even the best laws, emphasizing the need for legality in the process. He also remarked on the Islamabad High Court’s annulment of PECA Section 20, questioning its current legal standing and its implications on the matter at hand.

Salahuddin argued for the journalists’ right to know the specifics of the allegations against them and maintained that the FIA’s notices were in violation of several constitutional articles, including the freedom of speech and expression.

Discussing the separate previous cases of journalists harassment, AGP, Mansoor Usman Awan, informed the court that investigations were initiated after the apex court took up the matter. He outlined the progress made in the cases of journalists Absar Alam and Matiullah Jan. Regarding Absar Alam, the AGP stated that the process of obtaining a red warrant and blocking his CNIC had begun. He also revealed that notices had been issued twice to journalist Shahid Maitla, who interviewed former Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa (retired) about the abduction of Matiullah Jan.

Alam, who is the former chairman of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and former editor of Daily Nation, Islamabad was shot in Islamabad on April 20, 2021 as he was taking an evening stroll near his house. 

On July 21, 2020, Jan was abducted from the country’s capital Islamabad and later released after twelve hours.

The Supreme Court adjourned the hearing until April 2, maintaining its stance that the FIA should refrain from arresting the involved journalists until then. 

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