The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its Pakistan affiliate, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), on Wednesday urged the government to withdraw the cases against Express News anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan, the most vocal critic of the ruling coalition.
An official statement said that the cases against the journalist were filed with police in numerous areas of Punjab, all with similar charges, adding that several residents submitted applications to register first information reports (FIRs), alleging that the journalist was inciting anti-national sentiments by disparaging state institutions.
On June 30, three indictments were filed against the TV anchor, one in Gojra and two in Jhang, on the complaints of three separate persons. According to the FIRs, the anchor's actions violated Pakistan's constitution as they "wounded" Pakistani people's feelings and went against state institutions.
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The cases were filed under Sections 505-1 ©, 505-2, 501, and 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and various sections of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act, 2016.
Chowk Sarwar Shaheed police in Muzaffargarh also filed a separate charge against Khan under the Anti-Electronic Crime Act and other laws. Complainant Advocate Riazul Haq, the brother of Maj Zakaul Haq Shaheed, alleged that Khan had harmed the army's reputation.
Imran Riaz Khan has since been arrested on July 5 for an FIR filed at Attock police station.
According to the IFJ's South Asia Press Freedom Report 2021-2022, "two-thirds of the complainants invoking the PECA law against journalists are private citizens, with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officials the second-highest initiator of complaints".
"Opinions or criticism of the military and the intelligence agencies is the most frequent complaint against journalists," the report said.
Also read: Journalist Ayaz Amir attacked in Lahore
The PFUJ said: "Registration of cases against journalists is an attempt to gag them. This is an action which cannot be permitted in any democratic and civilised country."
The IFJ stated: "As the number of cases lodged against journalists increases in Pakistan, the IFJ urges the Pakistani authorities to withdraw the cases against Imran Riaz Khan and cease the use of government mechanisms to harass journalists and media workers."
Imran Riaz's arrest
Senior journalist Imran Riaz Khan was arrested from Islamabad Toll Plaza late on Tuesday, disregarding the fact that a court has already granted him a pre-arrest bail.
The journalist has been implicated in a slew of cases which he says were motivated by his refusal to “stop speaking the truth”.
Of late, more than a dozen FIRs have been registered against him on charges as serious as abetment of mutiny and criticism of the state institutions.
In a video of his arrest, which went viral on social media, over a dozen police officers of the Punjab Police can be seen surrounding his car.
Reportedly, he was arrested in a case lodged at the Attock police station and was taken to the same district.
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