LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Tuesday restrained police from harassing digital media journalists who covered the violent protests on May 9, following the arrest of PTI Chairman Imran Khan.

The order was passed by Justice Anwarul Haq Pannun on a petition filed by an association of digital media journalists.

Advocate Azhar Siddique, on behalf of the petitioner, contended that several social media journalists and activists have been illegally arrested for being present on the protest scenes.

He said the journalists were only covering the events and not involved in any illegal activity.

Lahore High Court stops officials from arresting digital media journalists

Advocate Siddique stated that the police, instead of approaching press clubs and journalists’ bodies to seek their help in identifying the culprits of the May 9 riots, illegally harassed and apprehended the journalists.

He sought an order for police to release all social media activists/journalists, including reporters and camerapersons, and other individuals detained illegally.

The court should also restrain the police and other law enforcement agencies from arresting, detaining, or taking any coercive action against the social media journalists till the matter was decided, the counsel requested.

After hearing the arguments, Justice Pannun directed the law officers of federal and provincial governments to submit replies by May 25.

The judge also ordered the law enforcement agencies to not harass the journalists if no case was registered against them.

If they are required in any case, the journalists shall join the investigation, the judge ordered.

‘Over 200 journalists harassed’

Several journalist bodies have censured the authorities over the treatment meted out to journalists since May 9.

As the police crackdown on suspected rioters intensified, several journalists and social media activists were also rounded up as cell phone locations and footage showed their presence on the scene.

According to the Lahore Press Club, around 250 journalists and other associated crew of media organisations had faced harassment and abuse of power by police.

The press club’s President Azam Chaudhry told Dawn that these people were discharging their duties on May 9 at different locations across Lahore.

The police had placed their names on the list of suspects wanted for involvement in attacks on military installations, police vans and private buildings, Mr Chaudhry said.

He added that the press club had engaged caretaker Punjab information minister Aamir Mir who took up the matter with the chief minister.

“On the CM’s direction, Punjab Home Department notified an eight-member committee called Punjab Journalists Protection Coordination Committee,” Mr Chaudhry said, adding that the committee included representatives of police and journalists bodies.

Despite these steps, he claimed, the police arrested more journalists and tortured them.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2023

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