High courts of Pakistan suspends Federal Investigation Agency from taking any adverse action against the Eat News journalist

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

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 (Arshad Sulahri). 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.

Photo: Arshad Sulahri/Eat News

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.”

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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.

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By

Arshad Sulahri is a correspondent for Eat News in Pakistan, and the President of National Union Of Journalists Pakistan.

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Eat News is a Taiwanese digital media, analyzes current events and issues through column articles, videos, visual aid, and exclusive interviews.

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