Supreme Court Seeks Reports on Journalists’ Harassment Petition

The Supreme Court of Pakistan took notice of the harassment and attacks on journalists, and summoned and sought reports from the home secretary, the director-general of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the inspector general of Islamabad. 

The court is also seeking answers from the secretary of information and secretary of the ministry of human rights. 

Further hearing and submission of reports is set for August 26.

The apex court also issued notices to the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors, All Pakistan Newspapers Society, Pakistan Broadcasters Association and Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists.

The court sought reports of attacks on journalists and the progress in the cases filed against the same.

The plea was heard by a two-judge bench headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel.

The Court took notice in the public interest under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.

The apex court called harassment of journalists and violating their right to speech an issue of public interest.

What does the petition state?

The petition said that journalists have been routinely targeted with physical assaults and verbal threats, among others. It stated that even reports of these attacks and abductions had been stifled on the news.

The petition also named the FIA as one of the entities that stifles their freedom to practice journalism.

“Departments and institutions of the state which are supposed to protect us are being used to lodge false cases against us. In this, the FIA has resorted to lodging baseless and unfounded cases against reputable journalists,” the petition stated. 

It also said that several constitutionally provided rights were being violated. 

The petition also cited Pakistan Press Freedom 2021, a report released by Freedom Network, which claims that there was a “dramatic escalation” in the climate of intimidation and harassment against media practitioners. It also cited the Pakistan’s 145th ranking in Reporters Without Borders’ 2021 global Press Freedom Ranking. 

FIA under pressure

The FIA’s practice of sending vague notices on short notice to journalists has been called into question in the past, particularly by the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

Nadeem Malik, a senior journalist and president of Samaa TV, received a notice on July 2 from the FIA’s counter-terrorism wing, asking him to appear on July 6. The case was to be heard in the anti-cyber crime court and not in the anti-terrorism court. However, on July 27 last year, the Islamabad Anti-Terrorism Court ruled that the case was not related to terrorism. The directive came as IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah resumed the hearing of a case against successive notices issued by the FIA’s Cybercrime wing to the citizens, especially journalists.

The IHC on July 30 sought a report from the FIA on the implementation of standard operating procedures to stop misuse of the cybercrimes law and directed the agency to consult representative organisations of journalists on the matter.

However, the FIA could not prepare and present SOPs that would prevent future harassment of journalists. The IHC has expressed anger over the FIA for its inaction.

Romessa Nadeem is a Project Coordinator at Media Matters for Democracy, which runs the Digital Rights Monitor.

No comments

leave a comment