Urdu update here | English translation by Romessa Nadeem
June 25, 2021 — The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has not stopped issuing notices to journalists under the Anti-Electronic Crime Act (PECA) despite clear orders from the Islamabad High Court. Jang newspaper columnist and journalist Bilal Ghauri was summoned by the FIA’s cyber crime wing while issuing notices. Bilal Ghauri challenged the notice in the Islamabad High Court, upon which the court suspended the FIA notice. The High Court has also summoned the director of the FIA’s cyber crime wing in person on June 30.
On Friday, advocates Iman Mazari and Usman Warraich appeared in the court of Chief Justice Athar Minallah on behalf of journalist Bilal Ghauri. Iman Mazari took a stand that PECA is being misused by the FIA and that Bilal Ghauri was summoned to the FIA without giving any reason. Upon this, Chief Justice Athar Minallah remarked that the court had repeatedly pointed out that fundamental rights should be respected. Reading the notice, it was clear that FIA officials were constantly repeating the same acts which were prohibited, thus repeatedly violating court orders. The court has asked the director of cyber crime to appear and explain why the November 3 court decision is not being implemented. It is to be noted that the Islamabad High Court has made it clear that the FIA will never issue a notice to anyone without giving a good reason and FIA officials have been reprimanded many times in the court for doing so. The notice issued against Journalist Asad Toor was also suspended as it was too vague.
Journalist Bilal Ghauri said in his application that he has been associated with journalism for 20 years, and during that time he has held important positions like Chief News Editor, Editorial Incharge and News Editor. He also received a Journalism Award from former President Asif Ali Zardari. Bilal Ghauri said he received a notice on June 21 from the FIA on WhatsApp, but it did not say what date he needed to appear on nor did it mention on what grounds he was being summoned. He said that sending such a notice to him through WhatsApp shows the malice of FIA. However, he wrote a letter in response to this notice and asked the FIA for details of the complaint against him. Instead of providing an explanation, the FIA again issued a vague notice directing him to appear on June 25, after which he had no choice but to approach the High Court.
The Court has summoned the director of the cyber crime wing and adjourned the hearing till June 30. Other petitions against the FIA’s authority under PECA are also set for June 30.