Islamabad High Court heard a petition on Tuesday against the harassment of a senior journalist, Sami Ibrahim. According to sources privy to the matter, the petition was heard at the request of the President of Bol News Network. During the petition, the court was informed that Sami Ibrahim was currently not in the country and would return on May 15th. The petitioner, Raja Amir Abbas, also submitted a copy of his client’s air tickets. Raja Amir Abbas also requested the court not to arrest his client upon returning. The petition was heard by the Chief Justice Islamabad High Court, Justice Athar Minallah.
Earlier, an inquiry was initiated by the Federal Investigation Agency against the senior journalist on the grounds of allegedly disseminating “anti-state videos” on various social media platforms. The inquiry was initiated under section 20 of the recently abrogated Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA). The FIA, in a press release, accused the journalist of being “involved in spreading fake news regarding state institutions.”
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“He has made imputations which are glaring attempts to incite armed forces personnel to mutiny. He has attempted to create chaos in Pakistan through the media while staying abroad,” it added.
The federal agency noted that the journalist would have the opportunity to defend himself in inquiry. “If the offence is made out, case will be registered against him through a FIR, he will be arrested whenever possible and prosecuted in court of law,” the presser released by the agency added. If Ibrahim successfully pleads his case, the “inquiry will be closed,” it added.
It is pertinent to mention that the FIA initiated the case under the repealed PECA act. The supreme court had deemed the ordinance unconstitutional and scrapped it last month. The FIA moved a petition to restore the act, only to be “withdrawn immediately” after receiving a backlash from journalists and editors alike.
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Crackdown on journalism:
Last month, Arshad Sharief, a prominent journalist and the host of the late-night talk show Power Play, was detained by “men in plain clothes” believed to be from the Federal Investigation Agency. According to reports, the men barged into the house of the senior journalist at around 1:30 am and harassed his family.
The arrest enraged his fellow peers and those who stand for free speech in journalism. Senior journalist Arif Hameed Bhatti took to Twitter and said, “Any victimization against Arshad, Sabir Shakir, and Moeed Pirzada or any other journalist will not be tolerated. All journalistic unions will launch peaceful protest against any highhandedness”.
The arrest also garnered international attention. Addressing a press conference at the Foreign Press Center, United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken addressing a press said that “we’re aware of significant restrictions on media outlets and civil society more broadly in Pakistan.” He added that practices to curb the freedom of the press in the country “undermine peaceful assembly” and “undermine Pakistan’s image as well as its ability to progress.”