RSF slams move to charge reporter with ‘cyber-terrorism’

Updated April 17, 2019

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The global watchdog said Shahzeb Jillani, who worked for Dunya News and had also worked for BBC and Deutsche Welle in the past, was currently facing charges under a controversial electronic crimes act and two criminal code provisions. — Photo courtesy Jilani's Twitter/File
The global watchdog said Shahzeb Jillani, who worked for Dunya News and had also worked for BBC and Deutsche Welle in the past, was currently facing charges under a controversial electronic crimes act and two criminal code provisions. — Photo courtesy Jilani's Twitter/File

KARACHI: A global media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), on Tuesday slammed attempts to “intimidate Pakistan’s journalists” and said a reporter critical of army and intelligence services was being prosecuted for “cyber-terrorism”.

The global watchdog said Shahzeb Jillani, who worked for Dunya News and had also worked for BBC and Deutsche Welle in the past, was currently facing charges under a controversial electronic crimes act and two criminal code provisions.

The charges include “defamatory remarks against the respected institutions of Pakistan” and “cyber-terrorism”, the RSF said, calling on a Karachi court to dismiss the charges.

“Pakistan’s authorities are yet again manipulating the laws in order to silence a journalist who dared to cross a red line by criticising certain institutions,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

Read: Scared of criticism?

“It is shocking to see how, little by little, case by case, the Pakistani security agencies are tightening their vice in order to intimidate the entire media profession into censoring themselves.”

Criticism of the security establishment has long been seen as a red line for the country’s media, with journalists and bloggers complaining of intimidation tactics including kidnappings, beatings, and even killings if they cross that line, the media watchdog said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists in a report released in September 2018 said the army had “quietly but effectively set restrictions on reporting”.

Read: Freedom of press on the decline in Pakistan, warns CPJ

The complaint against Jillani accuses him of making “audacious” remarks against “invisible security forces” during a 2017 Dunya TV appearance, and making similar comments in 2019.

The initial police report into the complaint, seen by AFP, notes that in investigating the claim it was also revealed that Jillani had tweeted “sarcastic, derogatory, disrespectful and defamatory language” against Pakistan and institutions including the military and army chief.

The report said the tweet was tantamount to creating a “sense of fear, panic, insecurity in the government institutions, general public and society”.

Jillani is due to appear before a court on Wednesday, according to RSF.

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2019