Press Statement

Pakistan: Journalist arrested amid allegations of anti-judiciary campaign

28 Feb, 2024

Federal authorities arrested journalist and blogger Asad Ali Toor on February 26 as he responded to a Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) summons, three days after he had been interrogated concerning his alleged connection to a “malicious campaign” against senior judicial figures. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), urge authorities to investigate the journalists’ arrest, and ensure his immediate release.

On February 27, Islamabad Judicial Magistrate Mohammad Shabbir granted the FIA a five-day udicial remand of Toor, a partial reduction of the agency’s initial 10-day request. According to Toor’s legal counsel and human rights lawyer Iman Mazari, Toor was arrested on February 26 while reporting to an FIA’s cybercrime investigative body in Islamabad for the second time in three days to “demonstrate his positive intent, answer a summons notice issued to him on Saturday and join the inquiry about the campaign against the judiciary”.

The journalist entered the FIA’s cybercrime facilities just before 5:00 p.m., with officials confirming his arrest after 9:00p.m. that night. In the First Information Report, no specific social media post is listed as justification for the arrest, however Toor’s legal representation have pointed to the journalist’s critical views on social media as a likely cause of his arrest.

Toor was first summoned on February 23, appearing at an FIA cybercrime office in Islamabad concerning his alleged connection to an online campaign targeting senior Pakistani court figures. According to the journalist’s counsel and human rights lawyer, Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir, Toor was held and interrogated for over eight hours, at least two hours of which was without access to legal representation.

Toor was one of 47 journalists and media workers summoned by the FIA ahead of January 31, for their alleged connection to an online campaign targeting Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faiz Isa and the Supreme Judiciary. Toor’s interrogation and subsequent arrest occurred despite assurances from the Attorney General for Pakistan assuring the Supreme Court that the FIA’s notices would not be enforced until after Pakistan’s general election, and an Apex Court adjournment of proceedings until the first week of March.

PFUJ President GM Jamali and Secretary General Rana Azeem said, “If someone has done something illegal, the government must obey the law of the land. He must be charged and dealt with legitimately, but any media person who is wrongfully detained will not be authorized. We urge the government to immediately release the journalist and obey the orders of Supreme Court. ”

The IFJ said: “The increasing number of cases against journalist and media workers is a distinct threat to press freedom in Pakistan. Authorities should not be free to pursue legal action journalists in violation of Apex Court rulings, nor should those detained be denied access to legal representation. The IFJ urges authorities to investigate Toor’s arrest, stop the illegal detention of journalists, and uphold press freedom.”

Written By

IFJ Asia-Pacific IFJ Asia-Pacific

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