Alleged defamation of state institutions: Journalist Shahzeb Jillani's bail extended by 2 days

Updated April 15, 2019

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Jillani has been accused of making defamatory remarks against state institutions. — Jillani's Twitter
Jillani has been accused of making defamatory remarks against state institutions. — Jillani's Twitter

A sessions court in Karachi on Monday extended by two days the interim pre-arrest bail granted to journalist Shahzeb Ali Shah Jillani in a case pertaining to alleged cyber terrorism, hate speech and defamatory remarks regarding the state institutions.

Last week, the court had granted an interim bail before arrest to the journalist in a case registered by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) under Sections 10(a) (cyber terrorism), 11 (hate speech) and 20 (malicious code) of the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016.

Jillani, through his counsel today, moved an application before the district and sessions judge (South) Imdad Hussain Khoso requesting to confirm the interim bail granted last week against a Rs100,000 surety bond.

Neither the investigating officer of the case nor the the FIA prosecutor was present in the court. The judge, therefore, extended the interim bail granted to Jillani by two days with instructions to keep on cooperating with the investigation.

The complainant named Moulvi Iqbal Haider alleged in the FIR that he was watching Dunya Kamran Khan Kay Sath on December 8, 2017 when Jillani, who was the coordinator of the programme, "articulated defamatory remarks against respected institutions of the country while answering questions posed by the show’s host".

The petitioner said that the journalist had made remarks against the "invisible security forces of the country" and had alleged that "the law enforcement agencies were directly involved in kidnapping of the citizens, which leads to cases of 'missing persons'."

The complainant said that on March 18, he once again noticed that Jillani had passed remarks through which law enforcement agencies had been "directly or indirectly, deliberately and intentionally accused of influencing the democratic system of Pakistan, due to which the solidarity, sovereignty, integrity and security of the state had been damaged and personal sentiments of the voters/general public had been hurt."

According to Haider, Jillani had first "made a reference to the history of army generals negatively influencing democracy", then suddenly referred to "the invisible force", adding that "they select rulers."

Haider, as per the FIR, further stated that Jillani had said that "Prime Minister Imran Khan cannot survive in the assembly if he works for public welfare and does not follow the directions of the establishment."

The complainant also said that Jillani was towing the "line of foreign agencies on social media and had also been blogging in order to implement his agenda against the sovereignty of Pakistan".

Haider said that the act of the suspect was in connivance with "others responsible at Dunya News as well as in collusion with the enemy countries".

The FIR further mentioned that during the course of the inquiry it was found that "Jillani had — with the criminal intent and ulterior motives and without any lawful justification — made sarcastic, derogatory, disrespectful remarks and used defamatory language against Pakistan, the Election Commission of Pakistan, the armed force, including the chief of the army staff and Inter-Services Intelligence, etc."

According to the complainant, Jillani's actions "are tantamount to creating a sense of fear, panic, insecurity in government institutions, general public and society".

KUJ demands revocation of case against Jillani, slams 'coercive PECA'

Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ) has condemned the case against Jillani under a "coercive law" for merely "expressing his independent views".

The KUJ also criticised the law under which the case has been registered against Jillani, noting that "PECA was enacted in 2016 without consulting the journalist community and other stake holders."

"The law seems to be in contravention of Article 19 of the Constitution, which gives freedom to any citizen of the country to express his or her views without any fear," a KUJ statement said.

KUJ President Ashraf Khan and general secretary Ahmed Khan Malik said that "a systematic campaign" was going on to suppress the voices of journalists and that the latest notice was "a part of that campaign".

They called upon the parliamentarians to review PECA as "it denies the rights of freedom of speech to the people of Pakistan."

Both the office-bearers strongly demanded that "the government revokes the notice against Jillani, who enjoys an impeccable journalistic career and is well respected in the journalism community."