06/27/2022

IHC Orders FIA To Stop Harassing Journalist Arshad Sharif

April 29, 2022 – The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to stop harassing journalist Arshad Sharif, who is associated with ARY News.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah presided over the hearing of a petition filed by Sharif against the FIA. According to the order dated Thursday, April 28, Sharif’s counsel Faisal Chaudhry stated that he had been instructed by Sharif the night before to approach the court as he was being “harassed”. 

“The learned counsel has further contended that since last night he has not been able to establish contact with the petitioner and that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the FIA malafidely (sic) and illegally detained the petitioner,” reads the order. “The learned counsel has contended that the fundamental rights of the petitioner and other persons engaged in the profession of journalism are being violated by the respondents.”

The court directed FIA’s Director-General Muhammad Tahir Rai and Islamabad Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Mohammad Ahsan Younas to nominate their representative to appear before the court today, Friday. They were also ordered to ensure that no journalist was unnecessarily harassed.

Later, the FIA issued a statement on social media, calling the reports of Sharif’s arrest “fake news” and “propaganda” against the agency.

“The FIA has neither arrested nor harassed anchorperson Arshad Sharif.”

The statement further reads, “The media and people are requested to desist from such propaganda. The FIA reserves the right to sue people involved in such propaganda. In addition, legal action can be taken against people who initiate and spread such propaganda.”

Many PTI leaders tweeted out in support of Sharif and other journalists. Fawad Chaudhry claimed that several journalists, including Imran Riaz Khan and Sabir Shakir (also associated with ARY News) were being surveilled and harassed since the new government came into power.  

Ali Haider Zaidi and Shireen Mazari also condemned the alleged incident.

Journalists, including Mazhar Abbas and Asad Baig, condemned the threats being posed to press freedom and said that harassment of journalists was not acceptable. 

Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb rejected the reports of Sharif’s arrest and termed them “inflammatory propaganda against the government”.

The FIA has time and again attracted heavy criticism from journalists and civil society and rights activists for misusing powers under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 (PECA). In February this year, the IHC questioned if the FIA could exert authority under PECA that contradicts the Constitution of Pakistan. Later in March, the court issued a show-cause notice to the agency’s cybercrime wing for “misuse of power” in the case related to journalist Mohsin Baig’s arrest under PECA.

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