The district administration of Dera Ismail Khan on Monday denied reports that two journalists were arrested for their critical reporting on the conditions in a coronavirus quarantine centre established in the district.
DI Khan Deputy Commissioner Muhammad Umair confirmed that two men were arrested for propagating "fake information" about the quarantine facility and misleading the media and the general public, but he said the men were not associated with any media organisation.
However, senior journalist Nasim Zehra identified one of the detained persons, Tauqeer Zaidi, as a reporter for 24 News HD TV channel, for which she herself hosts a programme. Journalist Hamid Mir too had earlier demanded the two journalists' release on Twitter.
Azmat Shah, a 24 News HD correspondent in Peshawar, also confirmed that Tauqeer has been associated with the channel and was reporting from DI Khan.
However, DC Umair accused the two detained men of "creating a law and order situation" in the district at a critical time. "We arrested them based on solid proofs and they failed to even show press cards," he told DawnNewsTV.
The deputy commissioner said that the detained men were not members of the local press club and accused them of "spreading propaganda" online. They were arrested under Section 3 of the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance (MPO).
According to the official, the two men were released on Monday, a day after they were arrested, after they submitted a written apology and the charges against them were withdrawn.
Earlier, media watchdog Freedom Network in a tweet had demanded the two men's release.
A DI Khan-based journalist told DawnNewsTV that the two men, Tauqeer and Wajahat Hussain, have also been working for Dera Times, a local daily, as a photography assistant and pagemaker.
He said the duo was arrested after posting news on social media that a group of pilgrims who returned from Iran had gone on a hunger strike to protest the authorities' decision not to release them despite spending 17 days in the DI Khan quarantine.