FIA opposes plea for criminal case against US blogger

Published June 10, 2020
Court directs Cynthia Ritchie to appear before it on June 13 on petition filed by local PPP leader. — Twitter/File
Court directs Cynthia Ritchie to appear before it on June 13 on petition filed by local PPP leader. — Twitter/File

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investi­ga­tion Agency (FIA) on Tuesday opposed a petition seeking registration of a criminal case against US blogger Cynthia D. Ritchie and requested the district and sessions court to dismiss it accordingly since the petitioner, a local leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), was not an aggrieved person in the matter.

PPP’s Islamabad president Advocate Raja Shakeel Abbasi had filed the petition before Additional District and Sessions Judge Atta Rabbani under Section 22-A of the Criminal Procedure Code, seeking registration of an FIR against Ms Ritchie for allegedly defaming the slain PPP chairperson and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto on social media.

The court issued a notice to Ms Ritchie, asking her to appear before it on June 13.

Last week, the court had issued a notice to the FIA on the petition.

FIA cybercrime circle’s assistant director Adnan Ahmad Khan Lohani submitted a reply to the petition. It stated: “On June 2 when the complainant appeared in the office of the Cybercrime Reporting Centre, Islamabad, in connection with verification of his complaint, he was explained that under the law, he has no locus standi [right of audience] to become complainant in the mater for invoking the provisions of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act [Peca] 2016.”

Court directs Cynthia Ritchie to appear before it on June 13 on petition filed by local PPP leader

The FIA official said Section 20 of Peca specifically made it clear that “whoever intentionally and publically exhibits or displays or transmits any information through any information system, which he knows to be false, and intimidates or harms the reputation or privacy of the natural person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine [which] may extend to one million rupees or with both”.

The FIA reply stated that subsection 2 of the Section 20 made it clear that “any aggrieved person or his guardian, where such person is a minor, may apply to the authority for removal, destruction of or blocking access to such information”.

It said that “bare reading of the law would reveal that only an aggrieved neutral person or his guardian can lodge a complaint. The right provided in subsection (2) to the aggrieved person or his guardian, in case the aggrieved person is a minor for applying the authority for removal of contents further substantiate that in the case under discussion, law can be set in motion only on the complaint of either an aggrieved ‘natural person’ or his guardian”.

Subsequently, the FIA requested “that the instant petition may be dismissed”.

The court directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to submit comments by June 13 when it would take up the matter again.

After the court’s proceedings, Cynthia Ritchie tweeted: “My actions don’t fall within the ambit of cyber crimes. I have the right to express my opinion...My lawyer, Nasir Azeem Khan, Advocate High Court will appear in Islamabad District Court on given date.”

In his petition, Advocate Abbasi said the FIA did not register an FIR on his complaint against the blogger who defamed the slain Benazir Bhutto.

In the complaint, Mr Abbasi urged the FIA’s cybercrime cell to take action against Ms Ritchie for posting on her Twitter acco­unt what he described as derogatory and slanderous remarks about Benazir Bhutto.

The complainant said Ms Ritchie had in her tweet passed extremely derogatory and slanderous remarks about Benazir Bhutto. “Her remarks being false, untrue, defamatory and slanderous as they are, have caused immense pain and agony to the millions across Pakistan who revere and hold Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto in high esteem,” he added.

“Your office is requested to take immediate action and initiate proceedings against this woman as prescribed by the law and under your mandate,” the complaint stated.

Another defamation notice

As Pakistan-based US blogger Cynthia Ritchie steps up a campaign against top PPP leaders, repeating serious allegations against them in TV talk shows with more details, senior PPP leader and former interior minister Rehman Malik on Tuesday sent another defamation notice to her.

In the notice sent through his counsel Rehman Bajwa, Senator Malik demands Ms Ritchie to pay Rs50 billion in damages, besides asking her to withdraw the allegations and tender an unqualified apology, failing which civil and criminal proceedings will be initiated against her in a court of competent jurisdiction.

The PPP leader strongly rejected all allegations against him and termed those a pack of lies to damage his national and international reputation which he has earned after tireless struggle for decades as investigator, politician, parliamentarian, former interior minister and author of three books and hundreds of articles published in national and international media. He said he considered it bellow his dignity to respond to the baseless and malicious allegations leveled against him by a foreigner, adding that he would take her to the court with her pack of lies to face the law.

Senator Malik said that running of such highly defamatory interviews on private TV channels were against the Pemra (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) rules and “our national ethics”. He has asked the TV channels to refrain from telecasting defamatory interviews and news against him.

Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2020



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