LAHORE: A judicial magistrate on Friday remanded a local journalist in three-day custody of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for his alleged involvement in uploading hate material against state institutions.

The cyber crime wing agency had arrested journalist Izharul Haq when he appeared before it to record his version in an inquiry initiated against him.

The agency officials presented him before Magistrate Yasir Arafat and sought his further physical remand to complete investigation.

Advocate Mian Dawood defended the journalist and opposed further remand. He said the FIA had arrested the journalist for criticizing the policies of PTI government and acquittal of former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf in the high treason case.

He argued that if criticism on the government and Musharraf was a crime then almost half of the population of the country would be arrested.

The counsel pointed out that the FIA had accused the journalist of sharing anti-state material on social media but did not mention even a single portion of the alleged material in the FIR. He said the case was in violation of freedom of expression enshrined in Article 19 of the Constitution.

The lawyer said there was no need of physical remand as the agency had already recovered all belongings of the journalist, including mobile phone and passwords of his social media accounts. The magistrate, however, granted three-day remand of Haq to the FIA and adjourned hearing till Jan 20.

Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Punjab Union of Journalists and Lahore Press Club strongly condemned the arrest of the journalist and demanded his immediate release.

In their separate statements, the journalists’ organisations termed the arrest of Izharul Haq an act of silencing the voice of citizens and a curb on freedom of expression.

They asked Prime Minister Imran Khan to take notice of the situation and ensure release of the journalist.

Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2020