CJP Isa takes notice of journalists’ harassment by FIA

Published January 28, 2024
Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa head a full court bench during an SC hearing. — DawnNewsTV/File
Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa head a full court bench during an SC hearing. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa on Saturday took suo motu notice of the alleged harassment of journalists by the Federal Investigation Agency against the backdrop of an alleged malicious campaign targeted towards superior judiciary.

The CJP also constituted a three-judge SC bench that will take up the matter on Monday. The bench headed by the CJP comprises Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Musarrat Hilali.

The suo motu notice was taken by the CJP following the adoption of a joint resolution by the Press Association of the Supreme Court (PAS) and the Islamabad High Court Journalist Association (IHCJA) and after his meeting in chambers with the newly elected representatives of the two bodies.

The case will be taken up along with another one instituted in 2021 at the request of the PAS regarding harassment of journalists.

Constitutes three-judge bench to take up the matter tomorrow

The court office has also intimated the attorney general for Pakistan, Pemra chairman, FIA director general and the Islamabad police chief with a directive to appear in person before the court.

The resolution was adopted after the PAS and IHCJA representatives held a joint meeting against the ba­­c­kdrop of reports circulating on soc­ial media that the FIA’s cyber wing, after taking notice of the smear campaign against judges, had issued notices to around 47 journalists.

The resolution regretted that FIA notices had sent a chilling effect and caused concern among the reporters who cover the proceedings of the Supreme Court and contravenes the rights guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution.

Both the elected bodies, while condemning the notices to journalists, called upon the authorities not to harass them, and immediately withdraw the notices or else both groups will approach the representative bodies of journalists to chalk out a future line of action.

When approached, journalist and social media influencer Siddique Jan, who was also issued FIA notice, told Dawn that he did not receive the notice at his postal address, but learnt through social media.

Moreover, the notice did not contain the exact charge, except a gist, saying “explicit and malicious campaign against honourable judges of the Supreme Court”, whereas the complainant was one Aneesur Rehman.

“The notices against the journalists, which were allegedly uploaded by certain anchors without prior permission, have endangered our lives since the notice contains personal information like complete home address, father’s name, CNIC number, etc,” he regretted.

The notice issued to Mr Jan stated that he was required to appear before the office of the Sub-Inspector, Cyber Crime Reporting Centre, on Jan 31, at 11am to record his statement. In case of non-appearance, it will be assumed that he has nothing to state in his defence.

Siddiq Jan said he would appear before the Supreme Court on Monday to highlight his concerns.

Likewise, Matiullah Jan, when contacted, said he did not receive any notice at his home address, though he learnt about the development through social media.

Another journalist, Saqib Bashir, also said he learnt about the notice through social media, adding that the notices were contrary to a recent IHC judgement which held that the state cannot become a complainant in such matters, rather the person, who has been defamed, should register complaint in his own name.

He said authorities should understand the fine line between positive criticism and the smear campaign.

The notices were issued against the backdrop of the formation of a five-member JIT by the caretaker government to ascertain facts beh­ind a malicious social media campaign against the Supreme Court judges, especially after the Jan 13 judgement which upheld the decision of the ECP to deprive the PTI of its iconic election symbol — ‘bat’.

Some other names according to what is being circulated in the social media are Asad Ali Toor, Paras Jahanzeb, Iqrarul Hassan, Shaheen Sehbai, Adeel Raja, Sabir Shakir, Jibran Nasir, Azhar Mashwani, Imran Riaz, Arif Hameed Bhatti, Sara Taseer, etc.

Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2024

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