Amnesty urges Pakistan to immediately release those arrested over 'critical tweets'

Published April 15, 2022
Amnesty International urges Pakistan to stop using PECA to punish freedom of speech. — Reuters
Amnesty International urges Pakistan to stop using PECA to punish freedom of speech. — Reuters

Amnesty International has urged Pakistani authorities to immediately release eight people arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for "criticising the state" on Twitter.

"The Pakistani authorities must stop using the draconian Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (Peca) to punish people who are simply exercising their right to freedom of expression online," Dinushika Dissanayake, the human rights organisation's director for South Asia, demanded.

She pointed out that for the longest period of time successive governments had used the law as a tool to crush peaceful dissent and intimidate supporters of political opposition.

Dissanayake called for the government to immediately and unconditionally release the eight people arrested across Punjab, adding that instead of quashing dissenting voices, the authorities should end their "repressive crackdown" on the right to freedom of expression.

Earlier this week, the FIA launched a crackdown on social media activists that it believed were involved in a "smear campaign" against institutions, especially the army, since former prime minister Imran Khan was ousted through a no-confidence motion.

Read: IHC orders FIA to stop harassing PTI's activists, workers

Since last Sunday, the top trending hashtags on Twitter were those targeting the army, the judiciary and the new government, and on Tuesday the tweets using those hashtags soared to 4.3 million.

An FIA official told Dawn that they had arrested some eight suspects in connection with a social media campaign against the army and the judiciary from different parts of Punjab, including Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad and Gujrat.

He, however, added that the arrests were not related to any political parties.

Meanwhile, a press conference of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General (DG) Major General Babar Iftikhar yesterday condemned the criticism on the army and called it "malicious propaganda".

The ISPR DG said that everything against the state institutions on social media was being "amplified" through external linkages and fake technology.

Opinion

Editorial

Afghan puzzle
Updated 28 May, 2024

Afghan puzzle

Unless these elements are neutralised, it will not be possible to have the upper hand over terrorist groups.
Attacking minorities
28 May, 2024

Attacking minorities

WHILE Pakistan has watched many perish in the cauldron of sacrilege, the state has done little to turn down the...
Persistent scourge
28 May, 2024

Persistent scourge

THE challenge of polio in Pakistan has reached a new nadir, drawing grave concerns from the Technical Advisory Group...
Mercury rising
Updated 27 May, 2024

Mercury rising

Each of the country's leaders is equally responsible for the deep pit Pakistan seems to have fallen into.
Antibiotic overuse
27 May, 2024

Antibiotic overuse

ANTIMICROBIAL resistance is an escalating crisis claiming some 700,000 lives annually in Pakistan. It is the third...
World Cup team
27 May, 2024

World Cup team

PAKISTAN waited until the very end to name their T20 World Cup squad. Even then, there was last-minute drama. Four...