The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Saturday arrested two journalists — Amir Mir and Imran Shafqat — in Lahore for their "disrespectful attitude" against the Pakistan Army, the judiciary and women.
According to a press release issued by the FIA’s Cyber Crime wing Lahore, the journalists were arrested after cases were registered against them under Sections 11, 13, 20 and 24 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 and Sections 469, 500, 505 and 509 of the Pakistan Penal Code.
The statement claimed that two YouTube channels the men were associated with, Googly and Tellings, were releasing messages attempting to weaken national security institutions and the judiciary while also weakening public trust in the institutions.
The statement said the two suspects had been released on bail while the investigation against them would continue. The FIA said it would gather more evidence against the two journalists and submit a challan to the court.
The arrest of the two journalists was quick to garner attention on social media, with politicians, rights activists and the journalist community condemning the FIA's move.
PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari condemned the arrests and demanded the release of Mir and Shafqat.
"Imran Khan continues victimisation of political opponents and media critics to hide his incompetence and failures," he said.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) termed the arrests "inexcusable". "It is no coincidence that both are known as dissenting voices," the HRCP said.
Journalist Rauf Klasra, while calling out the arrests, said "silencing voices in media wont help".
"Show tolerance to those who don’t toe your line or refuse to fall in line. It will only bring [a] bad name to institutions," he said.
Former senator Afrasiab Khattak termed the incident an attack on "whatever remains of press freedom" in the country.
"Abduction replacing arrests (even under the blackest of laws) reflects the nature of unconstitutional regime ruling the country," he said.