FIA Cybercrime Wing launches inquiry into 'social media campaign' against Saudi crown prince

Updated March 28, 2019

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman pictured with Prime Minister Imran Khan at a reception dinner at PM House on February 17, 2019. — Photo courtesy Arab News Twitter
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman pictured with Prime Minister Imran Khan at a reception dinner at PM House on February 17, 2019. — Photo courtesy Arab News Twitter

The Federal Investigation Agency's (FIA) Cybercrime Wing is seeking inquiries against certain journalists and parties for allegedly executing what it called "a targeted social media campaign" against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman during his February visit to Pakistan.

The development came to light when a copy of a letter dated March 13 ─ the authenticity of which was verified for DawnNewsTV by FIA sources ─ began circulating on social media after journalist Murtaza Solangi, who was named in the notice, registered a strong protest to an inquiry being initiated against him.

"So the shameful government of Imran Khan has a problem with putting the picture of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi on your Twitter profile and considers it against the law?" the journalist tweeted.

The letter signed by FIA Additional Director Cybercrime Wing Chaudhry Abdul Rauf ordered all additional directors of the FIA in Rawalpindi to register inquiries against the six journalists and four groups named in the letter.

These include:

  1. Matiullah Jan
  2. Murtaza Solangi
  3. Azaz Syed
  4. Ammar Masood
  5. Umer Cheema
  6. Ahmed Waqas Goraya
  7. Majlis-i-Wahdat-i-Muslimeen (MWM)
  8. Imamia Students Organization (ISO)
  9. Hizbul Tahrir Pak
  10. Tameer-i-Watan Party

"A targeted social media campaign was planned/executed against the [crown prince's] visit, during which [a] few social media activists and groups remained particularly consistent/active till the very last day of the visit," the letter said.

The letter, referring to the journalists, stated: "These activists displayed the picture of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on their social media profile DPs which conveyed a very disrespectful message to the visiting guest."

Speaking about the groups that will be probed, the letter said: "These groups/party's members were found most active on social media against Mohammad Bin Salman's visit to Pakistan."

All additional directors were asked to submit a report on their inquiries to Deputy Director Ayaz Khan on a daily basis.

DawnNewsTV has reached out to FIA Cybercrime Wing Director General Captain (retd) Muhammad Shoaib for an official comment on the matter.

Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, heir to the Saudi throne, has faced intense international scrutiny over the October 2018 murder of Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.

In November 2018, the US Central Intelligence Agency conducted an investigation and concluded that the crown prince was behind the murder. The Saudi government rejected the claim as false, insisting that the de facto ruler was not involved.

The crown prince, during his visit, signed agreements worth $20 billion in various fields.

Article 19 of the Constitution gives the right to freedom of speech and expression to all citizens but stipulates certain restrictions imposed by law, including speech related to, "friendly relations with foreign States".