Court bars FIA from arresting journalist over his tweets

Published October 9, 2020
The Islamabad High Court restrained the Federal Investigation Agency from arresting a journalist over his allegedly objectionable tweets. — AFP/File
The Islamabad High Court restrained the Federal Investigation Agency from arresting a journalist over his allegedly objectionable tweets. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday restrained the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from arresting a journalist over his allegedly objectionable tweets.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah summoned the inquiry officer of the FIA’s Cybercrime Wing on Oct 12 along with the record against the journalist, Rana Mohammad Arshad.

Justice Minallah was hearing a petition filed by the journalist.

This is the first case in Islamabad in which a legal committee constituted by the Pakistan Bar Council for defence of journalists has filed a petition.

A panel of lawyers comprising Mohammad Sajid Tanoli, Usman Warriach and Babar Hayat Samor and representing the journalist appeared before the court.

The counsel informed the court that the petitioner was a physically challenged person and working as a journalist.

They asserted that because of opinions and views expressed by the petitioner on social media, he was being harassed by the FIA’s Cybercrime Wing.

According to one of the lawyers of the petitioner, the FIA has served the petitioner an undated notice. He termed the notice mala fide due to its vague content.

He said that the petitioner was summoned by the FIA and later his house was raided by officials of the agency.

Justice Minallah observed: “The profession of the petitioner, fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 19 and 19-A of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, and the manner in which the respondents [FIA] have so far proceeded in this case, prima facie, raises questions of public importance, particularly abuse of power under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016.”

The court directed the registrar office to issue notices to the FIA authorities.

“The officer who has been entrusted [with] inquiry of the case is directed to appear on the next date fixed and explain under what authority of law the undated notice was issued followed by raiding the house of the petitioner as has been alleged,” the court order said. “The officer shall also explain why the alleged commission and omission on part of the petitioner were not disclosed in the undated notice.”

The court admitted the petition for regular hearing, issued notices to the FIA authorities and directed that “no adverse action shall be taken against the petitioner”.

It adjourned the hearing till Oct 12.

Meanwhile, former senator Farhatullah Babar has deplored delay in providing him the CCTV footage related to investigation into abduction of journalist Matiullah Jan.

Mr Babar pointed out that under the related law, he was supposed to be provided the CCTV footage within 10 days of the filing of an application. However, he said, it had been weeks since he filed the application, but the interior ministry had not shared the footage with him.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2020

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