Pakistani state authorities have detained Bol News journalist Jameel Farooqui, following accusations of ‘anti-state’ statements posted to his YouTube channel. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), urge the government to withdraw the case against Farooqui and protect press freedom.
Farooqui was charged following a First Information Report (FIR) registered on August 21 by magistrate Aimal Khan at Ramna Police Station, under several sections of the Pakistan Penal Code (PCC) relating to defamation and the obstruction of public servants.
The FIR stated that Farooqui’s reporting on police conduct was tantamount to interference with the case. Farooqui, a YouTuber and anchorperson at Bol News, was arrested the same night while leaving the BOL news office and will appear in court on August 23.
Farooqui commented on the treatment of PTI leader Shahbaz Gill by law enforcement, alleging that members of the Islamabad Capital Police (ICP) sexually and physically assaulted Gill during his August 9 arrest. The Islamabad Capital Police have in turn alleged that Farooqui made false accusations against law enforcement.
On August 22, Karachi’s district and sessions court granted Islamabad police a three-day transitionary remand of Jameel Farooqui and ordered police to inform Farooqui’s family of his whereabouts.
In a video posted to social media on August 23, Farooqui can be seen handcuffed at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport, accompanied by an Islamabad Police official. Farooqui claimed in the video that he was beaten after having his clothes stripped off.
On August 21, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) banned live speeches from former Prime Minister Imran Khan. PEMRA has blocked the transmission of pro-Khan news organisations, including ARY News on August 10 and Farooqui’s network BOL News on August 22.
PFUJ President GM Jamali and Secretary General Rana Azeem said: “Police must follow the law of the land if someone has committed a crime. If Farooqui must be charged all proceedings should be carried out properly. We completely condemn any illegal arrests of assault of any media persons, this abuse of power will not be tolerated.”
The IFJ said: “The IFJ urges the Pakistani authorities to withdraw the charges against Jameel Farooqui and to cease the concerning harassment and intimidation of media workers without justification. The fundamental rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press must be protected in Pakistan.”